HOUSTON – Thousands of fans were looking forward to Houston’s own Travis Scott, and his third annual music festival Astroworld, but what started out as a night of excitement, soon became deadly.
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According to the Houston Fire Department, it began with reports of several people injured at NRG stadium, where Astroworld Festival kicked off day one of a two-day music event. It was a highly anticipated event as COVID-19 put 2020’s festival on pause for Scott, whose real name is Jacques Webster II.
During a press conference overnight Saturday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said it was a tragic incident with at least eight people dead.
Preliminary information from HFD Chief Sam Peña was that there were about 50,000 people in attendance, and at around 9:15 p.m., the crowd began to “compress” over the stage, causing panic and people started falling out. However, right now, it’s unclear what caused the deaths of the eight people but once the medical examiner finishes their investigation.
“This was a tragic night,” Chief Peña said.
About 55 units were called out to respond to the incident, which was more than organizers anticipated, and became quickly apparent as nearly 300 people were treated for injuries. Chief Finner with the Houston Police Department spoke shortly saying the investigation remains underway so he encouraged residents to avoid listening to any rumors until everything was complete.
“Nobody has all the answers tonight,” Chief Finner said. “It’s not fair to the producers [of the event] or to anyone else involved.”
Fans who were in attendance Friday night tell FOX 26 they have attended previous Astroworld festivals but this was unlike anything they had encountered before.
“I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” Madeline Eskins, an ICU nurse, and festival attendee, who also assisted first responders amidst the chaos said. “I am disturbed. Honestly, it should have been stopped.”
High-profile Houston attorney Tony Buzbee told FOX 26’s Isiah Carey he is representing a client, who was injured during the event.
Early Friday afternoon, fans were seen trampling over one another after crossing the gates to try and enter the festival. However, Chief Finner confirms there was adequate law enforcement around to respond.
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An update Saturday with Mayor Sylvester Turner resulted in learning a thorough investigation into the events that night. That includes looking into the planning before and after the event as well as checking surveillance camera footage at NRG Stadium.
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As far as law enforcement personnel, the mayor said a total of 528 HPD officers provided security, and 755 represented private security for Live Nation at the facility.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions and over the last several days, weeks, we’ll take an in-depth look at what took place and why it took place,” Mayor Turner said.
He also hoped to squash rumors by encouraging residents to avoid listening to personal gossip or conversation about what happened as it’s too early in the investigation to jump to conclusions.
“Nothing is off the table,” Mayor Turner concluded.
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From what we do know, however, is a person was trampled in the crowd. Furthermore, at least one patient did report to officials feeling they had been poked with a needle, which was later brought up Saturday by Chief Finner, citing an injection point in their neck after they were revived.
Still, as a result of the tragic incident, officials said Astroworld will not resume its festivities per initially scheduled on Saturday.
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Additionally, authorities were unable to provide the age range of all patients hospitalized but confirmed one was a child as young as 10-years-old. The mayor did not release the identity of the eight people who died but said one was 14-years-old, another was 16-years-old, two were 21-years-old, two others were 23-years-old, another was 27-years-old but the eighth person is unknown, as of this writing.
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As of late Sunday evening, the only identities released are the following: John Hilgert, 14, a Memorial HS Freshman; Brianna Rodriguez, 16; Franco Patino, 21; Axel Acosta, 21, a student at Western Washington University; Rodolfo “Rudy” Perez, 23, of Laredo; Jacob “Jake” Jurinek, 23; and Danish Baig, 27 of North Texas.
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Chief Peña also noted that families who have not heard from family members, who were at the festival may arrive at the Wyndham motel on Kirby, where officials will have personnel there to filter information to families of patients who were hospitalized.
Astroworld officials released the following statement issuing condolences to families of those involved in the incident and are cooperating with law enforcement as they conduct their investigation.
Live Nation, as well as officials with the NRG Stadium also shared respective statements offering thoughts and prayers for those impacted by the tragic incident and announced their cooperation with authorities.
“Heartbroken for those lost and impacted at Astroworld [Friday] night,” Live Nation said. “We will continue working to provide as much information and assistance as possible to the local authorities as they investigate the situation.”
“We are deeply saddened by the heartbreaking loss of life and pain experienced by all those impacted by this tragedy,” an NRG Spokesperson added. “We are fully cooperating and working closely with police and local authorities as they investigate how this tragedy occurred at the Astroworld Festival.”
Moving forward, Judge Hidalgo announced a call for an independent and objective investigation to look into the plans put in place.
She noted after a similar encounter at Astroworld in 2019, officials did take into account more heightened security, stronger fencing, and yet, it’s unclear why things turned out the way they did. However, Judge Hidalgo said the county will search for answers.
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Travis Scott also issued a statement on social media saying he is “absolutely devastated” by what happened and issued condolences for loved ones involved.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Governor Greg Abbott also shared their condolences with residents.
“What happened at Astroworld Festival was a tragedy. An estimated 50,000 people attended the event Friday night, expecting to enjoy a music concert with friends and return home safely. I extend my condolences to the families of the eight people who died and the approximately 17 people who were injured at the event. Many of them suffered cardiac arrest.
“Immediately following the tragedy, the city began to assist with resources and necessary support. A reunification center is set up at 8686 Kirby Dr. for families to reconnect with loved ones who attend the event. Families searching for loved ones may also call 3-1-1.
“This was a major event that happened in the city and on Harris County property. Today, law enforcement will speak with concert promoters and witnesses and review videos available from the event and inside the festival venue.
“I have called for a detailed briefing from all stakeholders, including Live Nation, Harris County, NRG Park, Police, Fire, Office of Emergency Management, and other agencies, explaining how the event got out of control leading to the deaths and injuries of several attendees.”
Governor Abbott issued the following:
“What happened at Astroworld Festival last night was tragic, and our hearts are with those who lost their lives and those who were injured in the terrifying crowd surge,” said Governor Abbott. “Thank you to the first responders and good Samaritans who were on-site and immediately tended to those who were injured in the crowd. The State of Texas is ready to assist in the response, and I have directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to make state resources available to support the investigation. I ask Texans to join Cecilia and me in lifting up in prayer those affected by this tragedy.”