For those that don’t know what Astroworld is, Astroworld is a music festival, much like Coachella, founded by none other than Travis Scott himself. This festival was created in the year 2018 and is annually held in Houston, Texas. Last year, due to Covid, the festival was not held in person. Instead, it was held on the popular battle royale game, Fortnite. Scott collaborated with Epic Games in order to bring a virtual Astroworld-themed event to the game. This year’s Astroworld, however, played out very differently.
Eight people were confirmed dead and hundreds hurt in this “whirlpool” of an event. Eyewitnesses describe a “surge” that occurred in the crowd around 21:15 (9:15pm) on Friday, November 5th during Scott’s headline set. According to Fire Chief Samuel Peña, as this surge continued, more and more people were thrown into panic. Police officers and on-site first aiders were quickly overwhelmed by the masses. Some 300 people were treated on that day for bruises and cuts. “Everyone’s life was on the line,” said Bryan Espinoza, 16, at a news conference on Tuesday, Nov 9. “At one point, my ribs were getting into the railing, basically impaled, and I was fearing for my life that I wasn’t gonna make it,” Espinoza said. A security guard helped him jump the gate, and there were “hundreds of bodies on the floor already from people passing out, falling over the railing,” Espinoza reported. Eligio Garcia, 18, and his girlfriend, who were also caught up in this “Whirlpool”, reported that “Just kids and people falling and people trying to reach up, like they’re reaching up for you,” he said. “I really heard people screaming like, ‘Help, please help me.’”
Those who were in the thick of it also included Ayden Cruz and his friend Brianna Rodriguez, who died. “The ripple effects of the crowds going forward and backward, we were pushed onto our backs, and as that happened, people began to fall on top of us and cause it to be harder to get air and just so much weight on both of us,” he said, adding another friend “fell as well on his back and people on top of us. It was really scary.”
More than 18 lawsuits were filed against Scott, Live Nation (the shows promoter and organizer), Drake (who performed as a surprise guest), and NRG Park where the festival took place. Neither he nor Drake have commented on the new lawsuits against them. Astroworld has had problems like this in the past, like in November of 2019, when three people were trampled and hospitalized, but none of the issues have ever reached this scale before.
The cause of this surge remains unknown. According to Houston Police Chief Troy Finner, one of his men who was working as security reported that he had felt a prick on his neck when he was trying to restrain one of the audience members. That means that one possible cause is that someone was injecting concert goers with drugs during the performance. Another cause could be Travis Scott himself, encouraging his audience to rush the stage. In 2018, Scott pleaded guilty to a public disorder charge after he was accused of encouraging fans to rush the stage at a concert in Arkansas, according to a BBC news article. He reportedly paid nearly $7000 to the two people that he injured. Again, the truth as to why this surge occurred is unknown, officials are “looking at everything from the very beginning,” according to Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We’re looking at the roles that everyone played, what missteps, failures, gaps that may have existed,” Turner said to CNN reporters, adding that they aren’t ruling anything out.
My own thoughts on this tragedy? Well, for one, this was very poorly executed by Scott, who claimed that he knew nothing about what had transpired during his festival. They should’ve stopped the concert for a few minutes to calm down the crowd instead of just letting the audience run wild, injuring and killing others.
No matter what caused the surge at Astroworld, these events prove that things can get out of hand fast and when they do we have to respond quickly. The way that concerts and crowds are handled needs to change in the future in order to avoid more tragedies like this one.