Criminal investigation into Texas festival crowd surge
Police in Houston, Texas have opened a criminal investigation into the deaths at the Astroworld festival on Friday.
At least eight people died and scores of people were hurt after a crowd surge on the opening night of the music event in Houston, Texas.
The victims were between the ages of 14 and 27.
Police are also investigating claims a security officer was injected in the neck while trying to restrain a concert-goer.
Panic broke out after the crowd began to press towards the front of the stage during the rapper Travis Scott’s headline set on Friday evening.
As the crush began causing injuries to people, the panic grew and the casualties quickly overwhelmed the on-site first aiders, officials said. Some 300 people were treated for injuries such as cuts and bruises.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner told a news conference that the investigation would involve the homicide and narcotics divisions.
“We do have a report of a security officer, according to the medical staff that was out and treated him last night, that he was reaching over to restrain or grab a citizen and he felt a prick in his neck”, he said.
“When he was examined he went unconscious. They administered Narcan. He was revived and the medical staff did notice a prick that was similar to a prick that you would get if somebody is trying to inject.”
Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said the investigation will review video from the scene and explore the causes behind the crowd surge and “what prevented people from being able to escape that situation”.
In his first statement since the tragedy on Twitter, Travis Scott thanked the police and emergency services and said he was “committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need”.
Later he posted a video message on Instagram, in which he encouraged anyone with information about the incident to contact the authorities.
“We’ve been working closely with everyone to just try to get to the bottom of this,” he said. “Everyone continue to just keep your prayers.”
Some 50,000 people were attending the two-day outdoor event, which has now been cancelled.
A reunification centre has been set up at the Wyndham Houston Hotel for families who have not heard from loved ones at the festival.
Astroworld is an annual event held at NRG Park since 2018, though it was put on pause last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Other acts scheduled at the festival over the weekend included rappers Chief Keef and 21 Savage, and Australian rock act Tame Impala.
Travis Scott, whose real name is Jacques Webster, made his big breakthrough in 2013 and has since had eight nominations for Grammy Awards. He has a child with celebrity socialite Kylie Jenner, who also attended the concert.
In 2018, he pleaded guilty to a public disorder charge after he was accused of encouraging people to rush the stage at a concert in the US state of Arkansas.
According to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a local newspaper, Travis Scott also paid nearly $7,000 (£5,186) to two people who said they were injured at the event.
Sense of belonging turned deadly
Angelica Casas, BBC News, Houston
The night wasn’t supposed to end like it did. Today, the streets surrounding the Astroworld festival grounds are still mostly closed off, and the venue is almost empty except for staff and a heavy police presence.
Edward, a 25-year-old Houston native and a long-time Travis Scott fan, attended Friday’s performances, and both previous Astroworld festivals.
He was right in the middle of the crowd when, he says, things began to get ugly. As the surge grew worse in a matter of minutes, desperate concert-goers tried to escape, pushing and pulling.
“I personally had a girl grab and hold on to me for dear life,” he said. “I had to calm her down because she literally thought she was about to die.”
Edward says he made a protective circle with his arms around her so she could catch her breath. He was able to pull her out of the crowd and help her to safety. As he walked out, he saw unconscious people around him, some already receiving CPR.
Another attendee, Andy Pacheco, filmed the moment concert-goer Seanna Faith, in a desperate plea for help, climbed on to a platform where a cameraman was stationed to ask him to do something about the crowd surge. She wanted the cameraman to call police or medics. But her plea for help was in vain.
Ms Faith later wrote online that she had just escaped a “sinkhole” of people as the crowding had become more intense.
She managed to pull herself and a friend out and was trying to get help for the others.
People come to these festivals to escape reality and feel like they belong in a music community. On Friday night, that sense of belonging turned deadly.
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