A criminal investigation has been launched and three lawsuits already filed in relation to a crowd surge at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival in Houston, Texas this weekend which left eight people dead and at least dozens more injured.
While the exact circumstances which led to the tragedy that occurred during Scott’s headline set on Friday evening at Houston’s NRG Park are not yet known, various media organisations have tried to map out what happened based on eye witness reports and footage posted to social media as events unfolded.
Some reports suggest that pressure caused by the crowd pushing forward – and the resulting panic – started to create dangerous conditions about fifteen minutes into Scott’s performance, which began shortly after 9pm local time.
According to the Houston Chronicle, emergency services were aware that some fans had started collapsing by 9.30pm and then declared a “mass casualty event” at around 9.40pm, although Scott’s performance seemingly continued until about 10.15pm, with Drake joining him on stage for part of the set.
Scott did pause his show at least twice as these events unfolded, initially to urge fans to make way for an ambulance that had appeared amid the crowd, and later to seek help for an audience member who had visibly collapsed near the front of the stage.
However, seemingly under the impression that these were isolated incidents, on both occasions the musician continued, unaware something much more significant and much more severe was occurring within the crowd. Although his show was ultimately cut short, that happened more than half an hour after officials first became aware of the scale of the problem.
A number of those who experienced the crowd surge first hand have posted harrowing accounts, pictures and footage to social media. One video that has circulated shows two audience members desperately shouting at a camera operator filming the show – which was livestreamed by Apple Music – begging him to formally raise the alarm and ask for the performance to be halted. However, the camera operator ignores them.
In addition to this, at least two other witnesses with medical training have claimed that stewards on site did not have the required first aid skills or equipment to deal with the emergency as the number of people who had collapsed as a result of the crowd surge began to increase.
This will all presumably be scrutinised as part of the criminal investigation that has now been launched. Others have questioned whether footage of fans rushing onto the festival site as it opened earlier on Friday – pushing over security barriers in the process – resulted in significant numbers of people without tickets gaining access, increasing overall capacity.
All of these questions and allegations will also factor in the flood of civil litigation that is expected to be filed in the days ahead, most likely targeting Scott and his Cactus Jack company, as well as the festival’s promoters ScoreMore and Live Nation.
As of Monday morning, three lawsuits have already been filed. The first was instigated by Manuel Souza, who was one of those injured at the festival. His legal papers claim that the tragedy that occurred on Friday night was the direct result of “a motivation for profit at the expense of concertgoers’ health and safety” and the “encouragement of violence”.
The latter claim relates to allegations that Scott has a history of encouraging his audiences to behave recklessly during his shows, the musician having been charged twice for inciting dangerous behaviour during past festival performances.
He was also sued in 2017 by an audience member who claimed he was knocked off the balcony at a New York venue after Scott encouraged fans on the first floor of the show to jump into the arms of audience members below in a form of extreme crowdsurfing.
Souza’s new lawsuit also notes how, earlier on Friday, “concertgoers breached a security gate around the park, stampeded into the premises, and trampled over one another”, arguing that this was a warning sign of problems ahead that organisers chose to ignore.
It then hones in on the fact that Scott’s performance continued even once a “mass casualty event” had been declared. The event’s organisers, the lawsuit states, “made the conscious decision to let the show go on, despite the extreme risk of harm to concertgoers that was escalating by the moment”.
“Eventually”, it adds, “due to defendants’ active decision to let the show go on, the scene devolved into a complete melee, resulting in the needless, untimely death of at least eight people and injuries to scores of others”.
A key reason for Souza’s lawyers rush filing the lawsuit is the accompanying request for an injunction preventing any destruction of evidence. Meanwhile, the main lawsuit accuses Scott, Cactus Jack, ScoreMore and Live Nation of negligence and gross negligence, seeking at least $1 million in damages.
This year’s Astroworld was meant to be a two day event, but the Saturday proceedings were cancelled once the scale of Friday night’s tragedy became clear. Then, on Saturday, both Scott and Live Nation issued statements.
Scott said: “I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night. My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival. Houston Police Department has my total support as they continue to look into the tragic loss of life. I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need. Thank you to Houston PD, Fire Department and NRG Park for their immediate response and support. Love you all”.
In a subsequent video statement on Instagram he again reaffirmed that he and his team were working with the emergency services to “figure this out”, urging any fans with information that could assist with those investigations to come forward.
Live Nation, meanwhile, stated: “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”.
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