A crowd at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston unexpectedly began pushing toward the stage, causing panic and chaos, and leaving eight people dead, including a 14-year-old, authorities said.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Saturday, the day after the tragedy that also left dozens injured. “Over the next several days, several weeks — could be even longer — we’ll take an in-depth look at everything that took place, why it took place, what steps we can do moving forward to mitigate an incident of this kind from taking place at any other point in time.”
An estimated 50,000 people were at the concert Friday night at NRG Park when trouble started brewing shortly after 9 p.m., according to Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña. It wasn’t immediately clear what prompted the crowd to start moving toward the stage while Scott was performing, but authorities said they would review drone and on-the-ground footage.
“The crowd began to compress toward the front of the stage, and that caused some panic and started causing some injuries. People began to fall out and become unconscious and that created additional panic,” Peña said.
One question raised in the immediate aftermath was why the concert continued after Scott paused the show a couple of times to get help for attendees in distress. A harrowing video posted to social media showed two youths begging a cameraman to stop the show but being shrugged off. A source close to the rapper told The Hollywood Reporter that he did stop the show once he was informed of the magnitude of the situation.
“As soon as he jumped out on the stage, it was like an energy took over and everything went haywire,” concertgoer Niaara Goods told The Associated Press. “All of a sudden, your ribs are being crushed. You have someone’s arm in your neck. You’re trying to breathe, but you can’t.”
The ages of the victims range from 14 to 27, though one victim’s age still hadn’t been determined. Additionally, 25 people were transported to the hospital with 13 still hospitalized, five of whom are under the age of 18.
In a statement posted to social media on Saturday, Scott said he was “absolutely devastated.”
“My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival. Houston PD has my total support as they continue to look into the tragic loss of life,” he wrote.
— TRAVIS SCOTT (@trvisXX) November 6, 2021
On Saturday evening, Scott posted a video message to his Instagram Stories, addressing the situation. “I just want to send out prayers to the ones that was lost last night,” the rapper said. “We’re actually working right now to identify the families so we can help assist them through this tough time.”
He added, “You know my fans, my fans really mean the world to me, and I’ll always just really want to leave them with a positive experience.” He went on to say, “Any time I can make out anything that’s going on, I stop the show and help them get the help they need. I could just never imagine the severity of the situation.”
Scott reiterated that he is working closely with the city of Houston and the police and fire departments to “just try to get to the bottom of this” and asked anyone with any information to contact local authorities. “I’m honestly just devastated, and I could never imagine anything like this happening.”
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Live Nation put together the concert’s security plan, which included 528 Houston Police Department officers and another 755 people from private security.
“Perhaps the plans were inadequate. Perhaps the plans were good, but they weren’t followed. Perhaps it was something else entirely,” she said. “The families of those who died and everybody affected deserve answers as to what took place last night and that’s why I’m calling for an objective, independent investigation as to what went on and how it could have been prevented or how or if this was a particular situation that was simply out of everybody’s hands.”
Two sources with knowledge of the investigation told THR on Saturday that police were looking into a drug-spiking incident in an area of the festival where the chaos first began. The sources said it appeared to have been targeted at unknowing people, and that the crowd surge may have resulted from panic as attendees ran for safety.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said they have “heard rumors of people injecting people with drugs” at the show, and confirmed that a security officer was pricked in the neck and passed out, but was treated with Narcan and revived. “This is now a criminal investigation that’s gonna involve our homicide division, as well as narcotics,” the chief said.
Videos shared on social media show a chaotic scene starting early in the evening, including hundreds of people toppling steel barricades and storming through security to access the concert. Later, as the tragedy was underway, medical personnel can be seen carrying young people out on stretchers and attempting CPR on others. One clip showed Scott still on stage performing as several concertgoers attempted to inform security guards of the emergency.
The fire chief said there is no occupancy permit for an outdoor event, but based on fire codes, they could have had 200,000 people at this venue.
Friday’s festival lineup featured artists including SZA, Master P, Yves Tumor, Toro y Moi, Roddy Ricch, Lil Baby and Scott, who was scheduled to close the night from 8:45-10 p.m. He brought out a surprise guest in Drake.
THR reached out to Astroworld but did not get an immediate response Saturday. Live Nation, when reached for comment, directed THR to the following statement posted to social media: “Heartbroken for those lost and impacted at Astroworld last night. We will continue working to provide as much information and assistance as possible to the local authorities as they investigate the situation.”
A reunification center was opened at the Wyndham Houston Hotel for family members who may not have heard from their relatives who attended the show.
“Our hearts are broken,” Hidalgo said. “People go to these events looking for a good time, a chance to unwind, to make memories. It’s not the kind of event you go to to find out about fatalities.”
This year’s event marked the third annual Astroworld put on by Scott, who grew up in Missouri City, outside of Houston. Per organizers, the 2021 edition expanded to two days due to demand.
A statement posted to the Astroworld Fest’s social media Saturday confirmed that day two of the event had been canceled in light of the tragedy. “Our hearts are with the Astroworld Festival family tonight — especially those we lost and their loved ones,” the organizers said.
— ASTROWORLD FEST (@astroworldfest) November 6, 2021
In a brief statement shared to Instagram, Apple Music — the official live-streaming partner for the two-day Astroworld Fest — wrote that their “hearts go out to the victims who tragically lost their lives or were injured.” Following Friday’s tragic event, Apple Music posted several videos of the concert to its verified social media accounts, but they have since been deleted.
Abbey White and Trilby Beresford contributed to this story.
Nov. 6, 6:35 a.m. Updated with information from a knowledgeable source.
Nov. 6, 9:15 a.m. Updated with statement from Astroworld Fest confirming Saturday cancellation.
Nov. 6, 9:30 a.m. Updated with statement from Travis Scott and the Mayor of Houston.
Nov. 6, 12:25 p.m. Updated with statement from Apple Music.
Nov. 6, 1:30 p.m. Updated with details from Saturday press conference.
Nov. 6, 7:12 p.m. Updated with Live Nation’s statement posted to Twitter.
Nov. 6, 7:27 p.m. Updated with Travis Scott’s video message from Instagram.