Houston officials have given an update on the investigation into what happened at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival last night (November 5).
The rapper’s Texas festival was the site of a tragic crowd surge that killed eight people and injured hundreds more.
Speaking at a press conference held in Houston, Texas earlier today, Mayor Sylvester Turner said the incident was “tragic on many different levels”. “This is a very, very active investigation and we will probably be at it for quite some time to determine what happened,” he said.
The mayor confirmed that the ages of the eight people who had died were 14, 16, 21, 23 and 27. One deceased person remains unidentified at present. Six of the eight victims families have been notified of their deaths.
Turner also gave an update on the number of hospitalisations from Astroworld, saying 25 people had been taken to hospital from the festival. At the time of the press conference, 13 of those people were still being treated, including five who were under 18. Four people had already been discharged.
“This incident is being thoroughly investigated and reviewed,” the mayor said. “It is important for us to ascertain what happened, what took place and what missteps occurred.”
A total of 528 Houston Police Department officers provided security for the event, while Live Nation also hired 755 private security officers to work at Astroworld 2021. Turner also noted that reports of the crush were known to authorities at 9:30pm and that the event ended at 10:10pm.
“There are a lot of rumours on social media,” he said. “Let me caution people not to buy into the rumours. Nothing is off the table [but] it is way too preliminary now to draw any conclusions.”
Chief Troy Finner of the Houston Police Department acknowledged one of those rumours – that someone at the festival had been injecting attendees with drugs. “We do have a report of a security officer, according to the medical staff that was out and treated him last night,” he said. “He was reaching over to restrain or grab a citizen and he felt a prick in his neck.
“When he was examined, he went unconscious. They administered Narcan, he was revived and the medical staff did notice a prick that was similar to a prick that you would get if somebody’s trying to inject [you]. That’s one part of it.”
Narcan is a brand name for the drug naloxone, which is used to revive someone after they have suffered an overdose.
Finner also confirmed that authorities’ investigation into the events at Astroworld 2021 would be a criminal investigation that would involve the police department’s homicide and narcotics divisions. “We leave no stones unturned,” Finner added.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo addressed previous issues at past editions of Astroworld, citing problems with crowd control and breaching of barricades at the 2019 festival. She said that this year there had been “stronger fencing, more and more robust barricades, more personnel and more security personnel” added to make the event safer. “I want to know and the community deserves to know if more needed to be done,” she said.
Hidalgo encouraged attendees to share any information they had about what took place with the authorities. “Rumours are not what we need, but there are some serious questions that need to be asked,” she said.
She also called for an “objective, independent investigation” to determine “what went on and how it could have been prevented and how – or if – this was a situation that was simply out of everybody’s hands”.
Houston Fire Department Chief Sam Peña spoke about the capacity of the venue, NRG Park, saying that if officials had applied the “fire code assembly occupancy formula” that there could have been over 200,000 people allowed in the venue. “This venue was limited to 50,000,” he said.
“When we have large events, one of the things that we consider is that the crowd are sub-divided,” he continued to explain. “They had two separate stages in two separate areas. That was part of the plan. We had inspectors to ensure that the doors in and out of that venue remained open and unobstructed. These injuries did not occur as people tried to exit the venue. That was evident by the fact that once the event was terminated, that whole footprint was cleared out – 50,000 – within the hour.”
Scott made a statement on the tragedy earlier today, saying he was “absolutely devastated” by what had happened. “Houston PD has my total support as they continue to look into the tragic loss of life,” he said. “I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need.”
Fans who attended Astroworld 2021 have been sharing their accounts of the horrific incident online. Instagram user @seannafaith detailed their experience of trying to get camera crews to help raise the alarm and stop the show, only to be ignored. “I screamed people were dying over and over,” they wrote. “No one would listen.”