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How Travis Scott’s Astroworld ended in tragedy

At least eight people have been confirmed dead and more than 300 were injured in a fatal crowd crushing incident at the Houston festival

On Friday (November 5), eight people were killed and over 300 were injured in a deadly crowd crush at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival in Houston, Texas. Among the dead were several teenagers, the youngest of whom was just 14 years old. Other festivalgoers, many under the age of 18, were still being treated in hospital with their injuries over the weekend.

The crush happened shortly after Scott started his headline set, just after 9PM. Questions have since been raised about why the musician was allowed to finish his performance, despite an ambulance arriving and unconscious attendees being pulled from the crowd.

Scott said in a statement on Saturday (November 6) that he was “absolutely devastated by what took place last night” and promised to work “together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need”.

But how did a concert organised by one of music’s biggest stars end in such heartbreaking tragedy? Here’s what we know.

A SECURITY BARRIER WAS TRAMPLED EARLIER IN THE DAY

Videos circulating on social media appear to show crowds surging past security barriers hours before the fatal crushing. Reports from a local news station, ABC13 Houston, claimed that hundreds of fans were seen rushing past security blocks at 2PM on the opening day of the festival at NRG Park.

Local reporter Mycah Hatfield shared a video of the stampede on Twitter, writing: “A stampede burst through the gates. Hundreds of people destroyed the VIP security entrance, bypassing the checkpoint. People were trampled. Some were detained.”

THE SURGE BEGAN AS TRAVIS SCOTT STARTED

Just after the start of Travis Scott’s set at 9PM, an already tight crowd surged forward as concertgoers tried to get a glimpse of his performance. “I don’t know how many people were at the festival, but I do know that every single person was at that stage,” eyewitness Seanna Faith McCarty wrote on Instagram. Around 50,000 people were in the audience that night.

She continued: “Every gap was filled. Where your feet were placed, they stayed. Energy rose as the time neared, the beginning of the show – within the first 30 seconds of the first song, people began to drown in other people. Breathing became something only a few were capable of. The rest were crushed or unable to breathe in the thick, hot air. There was nowhere to go. The shoving got harder and harder. If someone’s arm had been up, it was no longer a possibility to put it down. So, people began to choke one another as the mass swayed. It became more and more violent, so we began to scream for help.”

McCarty spoke of how hundreds of people “ripped their vocal cords apart” crying out for help, but were not heard or assisted by security. Her heartbreaking account tells of how she heard the “shrieks of animals” as “sinkholes” opened up in the crowd, into which “person after person was sucked down”.

Another eyewitness account, shared by @alternatetaste on Twitter, said it was like they were “in a concert in hell”. They added: “We couldn’t breathe, we couldn’t see. Just imagine all the people they’re going to find tonight in that crowd who nobody could see, who nobody could hear who passed out, and everybody was just trampling on top of them the whole fucking concert. In the VIP section, people were getting pulled out who fainted and the medics were trying to give them CPR... once the medics tried to help them and they weren’t responding, they moved to the next person. The whole crowd was just going like, ‘Help, help, help’, but he (Travis Scott) just kept going.”

ORGANISERS WERE SLOW TO REACT

In her account, McCarty describes “somehow” managing to push back through the tight crowds towards a cameraman on a platform. She says she climbed the ladder to alert the cameraman that people were dying in the crowd, but he wouldn’t listen. She claims that he then called another man up to the 15ft platform, who told her he would push her off if she didn’t climb down. “I was in disbelief,” she wrote on Instagram. “Here were two people who could actually do something. Cut the camera, call in back-up, pause something. They did nothing.”

An ICU nurse, who had passed out and was crowd-surfed to safety while unconscious, offered help to medics after she came to, but quickly realised the situation was desperate. “I see three bodies sprawled out, and people who assume were medics/medical staff doing CPR… I ask where the ambu bag is, where the AED is, where the stretcher and ambulance is… and they said essentially there is none.”

She continued: “There was no cell service to call for more help. People were begging the crew operating the stage lights and stuff around us to stop the concert and they wouldn’t. I am so disappointed and sad.”

Larry Satterwhite, a senior Houston police officer who was near the front of the crowd, said: “Suddenly we had several people down on the ground, experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode, and so we immediately started doing CPR, and moving people right then, and that’s when I went and met with the promoters and they agreed to end early in the interest of public safety.”

KYLIE AND TRAVIS CLAIMED THEY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT WAS HAPPENING

Scott’s performance was live streamed on Apple Music, and it was reported that he stopped several times when he spotted fans in distress, asking the security for help. In a video uploaded to Twitter, the rapper said he was “absolutely devastated” by the incident and that he “could just not imagine the severity of the situation” while onstage.

Kylie Jenner has also responded to allegations Scott acted irresponsibly in not stopping his performance. “Travis and I are broken and devastated. My thoughts and prayers are with all who lost their lives,” she said in a statement on Sunday (November 7). “I want to make it clear, we weren’t aware of any fatalities until the news came out after the show and in no world would have continued filming or performing.”

Scott, who has in the past encouraged “raging” from his fans at shows, has previously been charged for disorderly conduct. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to charges of reckless conduct after telling fans to push through barriers and mount the stage at Lollapalooza festival in Chicago. In 2017, he invited fans to overpower security and storm the stage during his show at Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers, Arkansas. That same year, a fan was left paralysed after being pushed from a third-storey balcony during Scott’s performance at Terminal 5 in New York City. In 2019, three people were hospitalised at that year’s edition of Astroworld, after fans stampeded the entrance gates.

NOW, TRAVIS SCOTT AND DRAKE ARE BEING SUED

Several lawsuits have now been filed against Travis Scott and Drake for the events at Astroworld festival. Drake was accused of contributing to the surge towards the front after making an appearance during Scott’s set. 

“As Drake came on stage alongside Travis Scott, he helped incite the crowd, even though he knew of Travis Scott’s prior conduct,” reads a lawsuit filed by a 23-year-old who was severely injured at the concert. The complaint, filed in Harris County Court in Houston, claims that Scott “had incited mayhem and chaos at prior events” and “defendants knew or should have known of (Scott’s) prior conduct”.