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|Date||November 5, 2021|
|Time||c. 9:06 – 10:10 p.m. CDT (UTC−5)|
Houston, Texas, U.S.
|Non-fatal injuries||300+ (25 hospitalized)|
On November 5, 2021, a crowd crush occurred during the first night of the Astroworld Festival, a music event founded by American rapper Travis Scott. The event was held at NRG Park in Houston, Texas. Ten people died; eight on the night of the concert, and two more in the hospital over the following days. The causes of death are under investigation. Twenty-five people were hospitalized and more than 300 people were treated for injuries at the festival's field hospital. Multiple concertgoers documented the incident, posting videos and recounting their experiences on social media.
The Astroworld Festival is an annual music event founded by American rapper and hip hop songwriter Travis Scott in 2018, taking its name from his third album. The event was organized and managed by Live Nation and its affiliates. Apple Music streamed Scott's performance live.
The 2021 festival was planned for two consecutive nights. Tickets were sold out in under an hour upon going on sale in May, and 100,000 in total were expected to attend. Authorities initially planned to limit attendees to 70,000 the first night and that was reduced to 50,000 closer to the event, though city fire codes permitted 200,000 people. The city of Houston and Harris County organized security for the event, with Mayor Sylvester Turner saying that the city provided more security for the festival than it had for the 2021 World Series, which had ended in Houston three days earlier.
The event operations plan included eventualities such as deaths, traumatic injuries, severe weather, an active shooter, civil unrest, lost persons, missing children, and unruly fans, but not contingencies for a surging crowd or mosh pit safety.
At the time of the incident, the head of risk management for security personnel, security director, interior and exterior security directors, and the company they all worked for, were not listed in Texas Department of Public Safety's private security license database. In a document obtained by CNN, the chain of command indicated the concert's executive producer and its festival director were the only persons authorized to stop the concert, but the report didn't specify who held those roles. Specific crowd control techniques to spot or prevent problematic behaviour were not detailed in the document. Fire marshals forced an adjustment of the pyrotechnics as they did not match the organizers' original submission.
The Houston Police Department (HPD) had 528 officers at the festival, including 367 for the night shift and 161 held over from the day, and early reporting indicated event organizer Live Nation provided another 755 security officers. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner disputed the latter total given the poor record-keeping from the three to four security companies. Early reporting indicated the Houston Fire Department (HFD) stationed twenty ambulances outside the venue ahead of the concert, but Union President Marty Lancton disputed that total, saying there were no personnel inside the venue as it was owned by the county and they only had four staff on standby outside. Paramedical needs were covered by ParaDocs Worldwide, a contractor from Brooklyn, New York, which established a main medical tent and smaller aid stations around the venue.
Scott's previous performances experienced a number of legal issues, including his incitement of incidents and praising fans for their participation. CNN notes he built his reputation in hip hop with a live show that teetered on the brink of chaos he'd said he wanted to feel like wrestling matches.
At Lollapalooza in 2015, Scott was charged with disorderly conduct after inciting concertgoers to ignore security and rush the stage. In 2017, he was arrested for similar conduct after a performance in Arkansas and charged with inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, and endangering the welfare of a minor, although all charges but disorderly conduct were later dismissed. That same year, a fan sued Scott and the organizers of a concert at Terminal 5 in New York City after falling from the third level balcony and being dragged on stage, leaving the fan paralyzed from injuries sustained in the fall, with the lawsuit blaming the fall on a crowd surge. At the same concert, Scott was recorded encouraging other fans to jump off balconies, claiming that the crowd beneath them would catch them. In 2019, three people were injured as a crowd rushed to enter the compound at Astroworld.
On November 8, TMZ reported a promotional video for Astroworld which played up the apparent danger in attending the festival, with spliced news clips hyping the prior years' chaos, had been removed from their social media accounts except for Instagram. Photos on Scott's personal Instagram with his comments glorifying and glamorizing fans that had broken their hand or passed out had still not been taken down. The outlet editorialized in both cases that Scott's 'rager' persona and the Astroworld brand that supported it had caught up with them.
Less than two weeks earlier at the same venue, similar circumstances occurred at Playboi Carti's concert on October 23, causing it to be cancelled. Pictures and video shared on social media showed split metal detectors, rushing of checkpoints, fans on top of cars and at least one witness statement to the press indicating an ambulance was called for someone that had been trampled, but as of November 11 no details regarding that allegation had been released.
Before the concert began, both ParaDocs Worldwide and event security contractor Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC) were the subject of multiple recent or ongoing lawsuits seeking damages for deaths and/or injuries at concerts staffed by their personnel. Live Nation had also been cited for at least ten OSHA violations, fined for several more serious incidents, and sued civilly at least once in concert incidents from 2016 to 2019. Darius Williams, former hire for CSC, claimed to TMZ that his Level 2 security officer licensing exam he took the day before was brief and open book with answers given by the instructor. He said that he quit the day of the event upon realizing they were understaffed and not equipped to handle the crowds, with several coworkers he spoke with voicing similar concerns.
At approximately 7:30 a.m., two main thoroughfares outside NRG Park were blocked off by Houston Police in an attempt to avoid property destruction and stampedes like those that had occurred in 2018 and 2019. At roughly 9:30 a.m. both Houston Fire Department Assistant Chief and event emergency designee Michelle McLeod's requests for a preparatory dry run of NRG Park and for radios were denied by event organizers, the latter supplanted with only a cellphone number, which ScoreMore LLC's own plans indicated would be slow and unreliable due to extra network traffic.
Within an hour of the venue opening at 1:00 p.m., staff lost control of the perimeter, with participants breaching checkpoints and at least one individual using bolt cutters to enter through the barricade. By 2:00 p.m. most of the venue's perimeter had completely broken down, as hundreds of fans surged through the barricades, knocking over metal detectors at the VIP entrance and trampling several attendees. At least one person was injured and several were detained. While 100,000 tickets to the event were sold for both nights and plans indicated a limit of 50,000 for Scott's concert specifically, the actual number of attendees is unknown, since many non–ticket holders streamed in after the breach.
Chief Finner knew Scott personally and spoke with him before the show to share his concerns about concert safety. Finner later described the conversation as brief and respectful, and said he had also conveyed his concerns to Scott's head of security. He asked Scott's entire team to work with police given it was a challenging time with social unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic. Finner told reporters on November 10 that he didn't know Scott well, as he'd only met him twice.
An EMT said that after dealing with an expected influx of people seeking medical help for overdoses that started as early as 3:15 p.m., medical staff gradually became overwhelmed with traumatic injuries by 8:15 p.m. to the point they had to stop documenting patients and start triage. After running out of medical equipment and naloxone (a drug used to treat opioid overdoses), treatment was delayed by at least 20 minutes for many patients after being declared unconscious while some medics on-hire that weren't trained in CPR had to seek out audience members that were. Having never received promised planning calls from ParaDocs' EMS Director, Lancton HFD, EMS and PD were forced to respond on their own after hearing cross-traffic on their radios of patrons needing help, being misdirected by security from gate to gate upon arrival.
Scott was set to perform on the first night of the Astroworld Festival, with a countdown timer appearing thirty minutes before his set. Attendees cited by CNN said that as the countdown descended, concertgoers continued to compress together and breathing became difficult. Signs of overcrowding were present by 8:39 p.m., when an attendee shot a video of concertgoers trying to escape the crush by climbing over the barricades. An EMT told The Washington Post he had heard on his radio from other staff that people were being trampled as early as 9:00 p.m. He overheard discussions to shut down the concert early, but he did not know why the show continued. He and several colleagues decided it was too dangerous to enter the crush and attempt to help the injured.
Scott began performing at 9:06 p.m. His appearance on the stage resulted in people pushing toward it, leading to a human crush. A concertgoer later told reporters that the crush was so strong the crowd moved the individual, and people had little control over their own bodies. According to Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña, at about 9:00 p.m. members of the crowd pressed forward, causing a crush near the stage. He said that the crowd also surged from the sides. He added that the crush was not caused by obstructed exits but by issues close to the stage, where the crowd was tightly packed. As people began to fall and some were injured, additional panic ensued.
One eyewitness told ABC News that she saw security guards reinforce crowd control barricades by tying the supporting bars together as they began to buckle under the pressure. Another concertgoer who was 40 feet (12 m) from the stage told Dallas station WFAA-TV that when he complained to a staff member, he was told, "It's a mosh pit, what do you expect?" An attendee recounted to Rolling Stone that he witnessed unconscious concertgoers being crowd-surfed out to safety. An ICU nurse attending the concert that passed out twice from the pressure on her chest and back described her shock to CNN at the "feral" atmosphere, detailing people continuing to trample those on the ground to get to the front despite their screams. Another victim filmed herself on the bottom of a pile of people struggling to stay alive, later posting the video to TikTok.
Video taken at 9:11 p.m. shows fans unable to escape from the area closest to the stage. At 9:12 p.m. a tightly packed group of fans began screaming for medical help and at 9:23 p.m., some fans began climbing speaker scaffolding to escape the crush. Fans continued screaming and waving to attract Scott's attention at 9:24 p.m., but the rapper began his next song. At 9:27 p.m., Scott paused and hunched over after a song. While the crowd chanted his name, Scott stood up and walked to the right, pointing offstage asking for more lights. Meanwhile, some nearby concertgoers were calling out for medical help. Scott then told everyone to make a gesture with their middle fingers "because they are ready to rage".
At 9:30 p.m. Scott noticed an ambulance in the crowd, asked concertgoers to raise both arms if they were okay. Many people complied, so he said, "You all know what you came to do, Chase B, let's go", continuing the concert with his song "Upper Echelon" and telling the crowd that he wanted to hear the ground shake. As Scott was starting to sing at 9:34 p.m, a woman was filmed climbing a ladder to solicit help from camera operators. A man joined her, voicing the same concerns, but another audience member told him that the crowd would take care of it. "People are fucking dying! I want to save somebody's life! That's somebody's kid!", he responded.
At around 9:42 p.m. Scott stopped performing "Skeletons" mid-song after noticing an unconscious attendee. Security team members provided aid, and he resumed the performance. A video showed an unconscious man being carried from the area.
At around 9:43 p.m., a group of concertgoers began chanting "Stop the show!", but their requests were unheeded. Just prior to 10:00 p.m. eyewitnesses noted the initial crush seemed to be over, but things got chaotic again with the arrival of Drake, who joined Scott on the song "Knife Talk". During the song, audience members were filmed dancing on the roof of a retrofitted golf cart being used by medical staff. Scott and Drake started the song "Sicko Mode" at approximately 10:08 p.m. before the show closed with the final song, "Goosebumps."
Concertgoers recorded staff performing CPR on unconscious attendees as early as 9:28 p.m. As medical personnel were overwhelmed in triage, audience members attempted to help perform CPR as well. Several people were administered naloxone. Peña said that most of the fatalities likely occurred after 9:30 p.m.
At 9:38 p.m., officials declared a mass-casualty incident and seventeen people were transferred to hospitals. According to radio traffic the HFD dispatched sixteen units to NRG Park at 9:38 p.m. and another twelve at 9:53 p.m. Houston police executive assistant chief Larry Satterwhite asked the Live Nation promoters to end the event early, which they agreed to do. The event ended at approximately 10:10 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.[a] The New York Times claimed that the show ended thirty minutes earlier than scheduled. In response to the perceived delay, Chief Finner said after consultation with local officials that "you cannot just close when you have over 50,000 individuals", citing concerns about possible riots when you have a group that young.
Footage from the event shows police officers near the stage pointing their phones at the stage, with the performance going on, fifteen minutes after the mass casualty event was declared. In Facebook posts made during and immediately after the event, security director for CSC Jason Huckabey posted criticisms of festival attendees, saying it was "sad that all those kids inside died and other are still in the hospital because this generation has no value in other peoples lives", his guards tried to stop "waves of dumbasses breaking down fences trying to rush in," and adding: "A lot of these idiots were from 15-22 in age."
Eight victims aged 14 to 27 died on the night of the concert. One of the injured, a 22-year-old woman, was declared brain dead on November 9, and died the next day. A 9-year-old boy was placed in a medically induced coma after being crushed and trampled at the concert, becoming the tenth fatality of the event on November 14.
Of the 25 people evacuated to local hospitals that night, eleven were in cardiac arrest. 13 remained hospitalized. One victim remains in critical condition as of November 6. In all, more than 300 people were treated for injuries in the field hospital at the festival.
Following the crush, the event gained widespread notoriety. A reunification center was set up at the Wyndham Houston Hotel for families searching for relatives. In its first statement of condolences the next day at roughly 6:00 a.m. after the initial casualties had been announced, Astroworld clarified in a social media post the second night of the festival on November 6 was canceled. Scott and DJ Chase B’s streetwear boutique at Rice Village in Houston also closed following the incident, remaining shuttered as of November 10.
Immediately following the concert, Scott went to a small, pre-scheduled private after-party at a local Dave & Buster’s hosted by friend and co-performer Drake. Anonymous sources close to both claimed to several outlets that neither could hear pleas to stop the concert while in progress nor knew anything about the severity of the situation until they were informed at the restaurant as neither police nor organizers had informed them prior. After Scott’s arrival and prior to a mass casualty confirmation early Saturday morning, several party-goers had heard rumors there’d been deaths but weren’t overly alarmed as they assumed they were overdoses. Immediately upon hearing further details from his team, Scott left.
Plans for another pre-scheduled party later that night with both at The Post Oak Hotel where Drake was staying were then quickly cancelled. The next night while Scott and Jenner stayed at their home in Houston, Drake went back out for yet another pre-scheduled after-party, spending $1 million at Houston strip club Area 29, whose social media posts documenting the event were taken down after heavy backlash towards Drake and the club from several outlets and fans for insensitivity.
Two days after the crush, a makeshift memorial for the victims was created on a chain link fence outside the festival area, with prayer candles, flowers, pictures of the deceased, and stuffed animals among the items left. A non-profit group from San Antonio provided therapy dogs at the scene. The Sunday Service Choir, an American gospel collective led by rapper and producer Kanye West, partnered with Triller and Revolt TV to hold a free live online worship service in memory of and tribute to those who died.
The causes of death are still under criminal investigation that as of November 8 were being run by the HPD's homicide and narcotics divisions. As of November 9, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science had completed autopsies for the eight initial victims; the cause of those deaths are still under investigation. A spokesperson for the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office said that results could take several weeks.
Drug overdose is being investigated as a potential cause of cardiac arrest. Police reported that a security officer allegedly fell unconscious after feeling a prick to his neck and that he had a puncture wound consistent with an injection. It was initially reported by The Wall Street Journal that part of the investigation into the deaths was to determine if drugs laced with Fentanyl were taken by concertgoers and potentially contributed to the deaths of some. On November 8, Houston Police emphasized that the drugging theory was unconfirmed, while toxicology experts and concert attendees cast doubt upon its validity. On November 9, Chief Finner confirmed that evidence of drugs on the festival grounds existed, but it was not clear what those drugs were. On November 10, Chief Finner confirmed the security guard who made the allegations was located and that his story was not consistent with the reporting of injected drugs, clarifying he was actually struck in the head and fell unconscious.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, local homicide and narcotics investigators, representatives for the insurance companies of the defendants, OSHA, and lawyers for the concertgoers were on the scene. Live Nation and ScoreMore LLC said they were working with local authorities, investigators were inspecting the grounds, and CCTV video had been turned over.
On November 8, FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed to ABC News that his agency would be providing technical assistance to local investigators, and on November 9 FBI Houston branch spokesperson Brittany Davis clarified they were ready to assist, but as of November 11 city officials had declined to divulge publicly subsequently whether the department had asked for the FBI's aid or accepted the help.
Several lawyers for the victims and local officials, including Harris County judge Lina Hidalgo, called for an independent investigation by an outside law firm or other third-party, citing conflicts of interest, and Chief Finner indicated on November 10 he'd be open to it if the HPD's investigation revealed there was a need, however subsequent reporting indicated the ability of the county to take action had been greatly curtailed by Finner's announcement of his own investigation.
The following week, crowd management expert and head of L.A.-based Crowd Management Strategies, Paul Wertheimer, who served on a task force following The Who concert disaster (1979), said to The Washington Post that only an independent commission would provide a satisfactory analysis. He noted that open-seating events with no bleachers or chairs are extremely profitable for the eventholders. The owner of event production and promotion company Six One Live said that organizers have a financial incentive to admit as many patrons as possible and avoid a 'stop show', where the responsible parties would contact the head of security to cut the music while a problem was assessed.
Amid a conflict over jurisdiction between the city and the county on instituting additional permitting at NRG Park post-incident, Mayor Turner said he wouldn't wait for the county commissioners to institute changes before taking action on his own.
As of November 8, 2021, according to the Houston Chronicle, at least 36 lawsuits, including several class actions, had been filed. According to state legal experts, that number was likely to grow, with total liability likely reaching hundreds of millions of dollars in cases that would take years to resolve. Defendants include Travis Scott and Drake (as Drake joined Scott in his headline set), concert promoters including Live Nation Entertainment and Scoremore Holdings LLC, venues and management including NRG Park, ASM Global, NRG Energy, CSC, Cactus Jack Records, the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation, and various security firms, producers, promoters, subcontractors, and public relations officials. Attorneys for the deceased, injured, and traumatized fans stated in court documents organizers were motivated by profit at concertgoers' expense and should have foreseen the potential for a disastrous outcome.
According to the certificate of liability insurance for NRG Park obtained by TMZ that was filed with the city of Houston, they had $1 million in primary coverage with an umbrella of $25 million. The outlet reported that as of November 9 there was not any evidence of other coverage, and speculated regarding which parties would be held responsible and possibly have to file for bankruptcy if the insurance turns out to be inadequate to pay out all the claims.
Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump announced on November 12 he and his associates were representing over 200 people in at least 93 lawsuits against many of the same parties as those filed prior, with one representing 90 filed that day. He emphasized in his press conference he wasn't just seeking justice but permanent change in live entertainment practices going forward.
On the night of the incident, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) described the events as horrific and said that there needed to be a very serious, credible, and objective investigation. In a statement posted to his social media the next day, Scott offered his condolences to those who died, and offered support to local authorities. Later that day, he posted a video response on Instagram, which many outlets quickly criticized for its perceived insincerity. Also on that day Kylie Jenner, Scott's girlfriend who attended the show, released a statement indicating that they were unaware of the fatalities until afterwards, and added that had they known, they would not have continued filming or performing. Apple Music, who live streamed the event, deleted their social media posts related to the festival and issued a statement commemorating the victims.
That day Texas governor Greg Abbott said: "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." On November 10, he announced the formation of a task force that would begin the work of creating safety standards and guidelines for future events of this type.
Live Nation in a statement said: "Our entire team is mourning alongside the community", and they were working on ways to support attendees, the families of victims, and staff with mental health counseling and help with hospital costs for the victims and their loved ones, promising refunds to all paying concertgoers. Scott released another statement on November 8 indicating he would cover the costs of the funerals for those killed at the festival then partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and two other mental health organizations to help those affected by the incident. Drake released his first statement that day as well, voicing similar sentiments. Variety also reported Scott had cancelled his headlining appearance at the Day N Vegas Festival, slated for November 13 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
American rapper Roddy Ricch and American singer, songwriter, and producer Toro y Moi both announced that they would be donating their net compensation for performing at the event to the victims' families.
Questions arose in the press over whether proper protocol was followed in identifying suspected deceased victims over the radio. An official with ParaDocs, the private medical provider at the show, disputed to the The New York Times that the medical facilities were understaffed and overcrowded already at 8 p.m. A trial attorney with past experience in a crowd crush case commented to the Houston Chronicle that Live Nation likely had not hired a crowd control expert or partitioned the venue correctly.
Chief Peña told The New York Times that he felt Scott and the organizers were the people responsible to stop the show, explaining that the one person who can really call for and get a tactical pause when something goes wrong is the performer, clarifying it would have been very helpful if Scott had said "'Hey, shut this thing down and turn on the lights until this thing gets corrected'". Videos of other concerts being paused by artists such as Kurt Cobain, Adele, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Dave Grohl, ASAP Rocky, Chris Martin, Mike Shinoda, and Lil Pump to address safety concerns and medical emergencies soon went viral in response to the incident. Artist SZA who had performed at Astroworld earlier the same day of the incident stopped her concert less than a week later in Salt Lake City due to someone fainting in the audience, insisting her team bring them water, and arguing during the break for a culture shift for shows going forward.
Presented content of the Wikipedia article was extracted in 2021-11-15 based on https://en.wikipedia.org/?curid=69203540