Astroworld: a preventable horror

Far too often at music festivals, thrill turns into disaster. 

This was the case at rapper Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival on Nov. 5, where a massive crowd surge left ten people dead, including a nine-year-old boy, and hundreds reportedly injured

Scott was performing to a sold-out NRG Park stadium complex in Houston, Texas. Once he came onstage, the 50,000-person crowd ran to the front, pressing against each other. “My rib-cage was so squished that I couldn’t expand my lungs to catch a breath,” told a festival attendee. 

Around a half hour into his set, a flashing ambulance moved through concertgoers, many of whom were yelling at Scott to stop the show. He paused in confusion before continuing. 

In a video taken seconds after, a concertgoer tried to notify a festival camera operator of the ongoing chaos. Minutes later, another concertgoer told the same camera operator “There is someone dead [in the crowd]”, which did not receive much response. 

38 minutes into Scott’s performance, police declared the show a mass casualty event and met with festival promoters Live Nation and Scoremore to end it.

Several people in the crowd were also “experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or medical episode,” said a Houston Police executive. 

Scott paused his set once he noticed a fan was unconscious and called security for help. Meanwhile, part of the crowd chanted for him to stop the show without success. It was 10:11 PM when Scott finished his show — 33 minutes after it was deemed a mass casualty event. 

In the tragedy’s aftermath, parties responsible for the safety of attendees are divided on who is to blame for the tragedy. 528 Houston police officers were present at the scene, as well as an extra 755 security officers from Live Nation.
Two security guards have sued Astroworld’s staff  and corporations, including Scott and festival promoters, for injuries sustained while helping the crowd and lack of prior training.

It’s one of over 40 lawsuits filed against Scott and Live Nation. Both have issued statements about the disaster, neither of which include an apology.

Scott said his fans “really mean the world to [him]” and he “could never imagine the severity of the situation.” Live Nation also spoke of their support to “local authorities as they investigate this situation.” 

Other music shows in the past that were attended by large crowds have also become fatal. Pearl Jam’s set at the 2000 Roskilde Festival saw the death of nine fans from a mosh pit on wet grounds.

The band stopped their show once they learned about the deaths and from then onwards refused festivals whose contracts didn’t have detailed security arrangements. This tragedy occurred at a time when music festival infrastructure, planning and knowledge were not as advanced.

Astroworld, by contrast, had access to more resources but caused more deaths in spite of that — and nobody is willing to take the blame.

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