Harris County launches investigation into safety and security at Astroworld venue


November 16, 2021

The Harris County Commissioner’s Court has announced a review of security and safety plans at Houston’s NRG Park – which is ultimately owned by the county – in the wake of the tragedy at this month’s Astroworld festival. However, a fully independent investigation into that tragedy has not been instigated.

Ten people died and hundreds more were injured after a crowd surge occurred during Travis Scott’s headline set at the latest edition of the Astroworld event that he founded, which was staged in the NRG Park complex. A criminal investigation is currently underway led by the Houston Police Department seeking to identify what led to the crowd surge, and to what extent poor planning or bad decision making on the ground contributed to the tragedy.

Some have called for a fully independent investigation into what happened at Astroworld, in no small part because Houston PD itself was involved in policing the event. However, police chief Troy Finner has insisted no such independent investigation is required at this time, telling reporters: “We investigate ourselves all the time”.

One person who indicated that she supported some kind of independent investigation last week was the elected country judge of Harris County – the county in which Houston sits – Lina Hidalgo. To that end, yesterday she proposed that the county auditor be asked to select an outside firm to undertake such an investigation.

According to Houston Public Media, at a meeting at the Harris County Commissioner’s Court she argued that an independent investigation of that kind would not interfere with the police’s criminal investigation or the stack of lawsuits that have been filed in relation to the Astroworld tragedy. Instead, it would “look at the broader picture of events to help determine how organisations involved can improve”.

However, concerns were raised by other elected officials that an independent investigation could open the county up to legal liabilities. After a private meeting to discuss the possible legal ramifications, an alternative proposal was presented and then approved, which is that County Administrator David Berry undertake a review of “security, fire and safety plans of all scheduled outdoor concerts on NRG Park property”.

That review will be conducted in coordination with the Houston mayor’s office and other necessary departments, and will also support the ongoing Houston PD investigation. Hidalgo backed the alternative proposal, but stated: “I continue to reiterate my ask that the outcome be objective, that it be actionable, productive. I think we owe that to the victims”.

Elsewhere in Astroworld related news, Nike has announced that it is postponing the launch of its latest collaboration with Scott. Nike said in a short statement: “Out of respect for everyone impacted by the tragic events at the Astroworld festival, we are postponing the launch of the Air Max 1 x Cactus Jack”. It’s thought those shoes were due to be launched in early 2022. It’s not clear when they will now go on sale.

We discuss the legal fall out from the Astroworld tragedy further in this week’s episode of our Setlist podcast.

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