At least eight people died this Friday night (5) after a riot during a concert by rapper Travis Scott, at the Astroworld music festival, in Houston, Texas (USA). This Saturday afternoon (6), the city hall confirmed that another 25 were hospitalized, of which 13 remain hospitalized.
According to Mayor Sylvester Turner, the victims were between 14 and 27 years old — one of them has yet to be identified. Of the patients in hospitals, five are minors.
According to law enforcement authorities, the episode was triggered after fans started pushing each other towards the stage, at around 21:00 (23:00 GMT). After about 30 minutes, confusion escalated and what Houston Police Chief Executive Larry Satterwhite called a “mass incident” ensued.
“All of a sudden, we had a bunch of people on the floor going through some kind of medical episode,” he said. “It happened all at once, in a matter of minutes.”
The fire department took 25 people to hospitals in the region, 11 of which had cardiac arrest. Earlier in the evening, at a press conference, local police chief Troy Finner said that one of the lines that will be investigated is that one person in the audience could be drugging others with a syringe.
According to him, a security guard felt a sting in the neck while trying to contain a disturbance and fell unconscious. Doctors, who revived him using an opioid antagonist drug, noticed a mark, similar to what a syringe would leave, on the agent’s neck.
Others in the crowd would also have passed out unconsciously during the performance.
In an Instagram post quoted by Reuters, a person on the show described the crowd. “Within 30 seconds of the first song, people started to drown among the others. Everything got tighter and tighter, our lungs compressed between bodies around us. More and more people were calling for help,” he wrote.
Hamad Al Barrak, 19, who was also attending the festival, told the agency that the venue was very crowded and that people were excited in the audience. “We were all pressed together. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.”
The chaos continued even with the emergency calls. In videos posted on social networks, it is possible to see the audience filming the show while an ambulance, which parked in the middle of the audience, provided assistance. A man even climbed into the car to sing and jump. According to The New York Times, more than 300 people were taken to the medical center set up at the site.
Travis Scott interrupted his 75-minute set several times after spotting fans in danger, according to the local Houston Chronicle. The rapper reportedly asked the security guards to make sure they were safe and help them get out of the crowd.
The artist is a Houston native. On Saturday, he said he is cooperating with the investigations and hopes to help the city overcome the trauma of the episode. “I am devastated by what happened last night. My prayers to family members and to all who were impacted. I love you,” he wrote on Twitter.
The opening of Astroworld on Friday brought together around 50,000 people — the space, which can hold up to 200,000 spectators, has adequate number of emergency exits and, according to the firefighters, they were duly unobstructed. There were 528 police and 755 private agents to secure the event.
Scott’s performance didn’t stop until 10:10 pm local time, more than 40 minutes after the riot began. Because of the deaths, the organization of the event canceled the second day of shows, scheduled for this Saturday (6). “We are focused on supporting local authorities in any way we can,” says a note published in the festival’s official profile.
“[É] obviously an extremely tragic night. Our hearts are broken,” said Lina Hidalgo, a judge for Harris County, to which Houston belongs. “Many of them extremely young, tragically young.”
Hidalgo said some of the injured people were only ten years old.
The fire department has set up an information center for those who have not yet heard from their families who attended the festival.
Two weeks ago, according to Reuters, organizers were forced to abruptly cancel a concert by rapper Playboy Carti, also at NRG Park in Houston, after fans pushed through a gate and stormed into the space;