Fans attending a Houston music festival surged toward the stage during a performance by rapper Travis Scott, triggering panic in the crowd of tens of thousands. At least eight people were killed and many more hurt, authorities said.
Among them were two teenagers and at least five people in their twenties, ranging in age from 14 to 27. One person's age has not been confirmed and only six of the families have been notified. Identities are yet to be determined, according to Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña.
13 people are still being hospitalized, Mayor Sylvester Turner said. One of those injured is a ten-year-old said to be in critical condition.
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The chaos unfolded Friday evening at Astroworld, a sold-out, two-day event at the NRG Park stadium. An estimated 50,000 people were in attendance. It was not clear what set the crowd in motion.
Turner called the disaster “a tragedy on many different levels” and said it was too early to draw conclusions about what went wrong.
Peña and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo both reported there were eight people killed and that more than 300 people had been treated at a field hospital for injuries.
Peña told reporters that at about 9:38 p.m., there was a surge toward the stage while Travis Scott was performing and that "scores of people were injured."
"That caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries, people began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created additional panic," the fire chief said.
About 50,000 people were at the event at NRG Park, which was being put on by rapper and producer Travis Scott. The festival, which is in its third year, was expected to be a two-day event, but officials said that Saturday's lineup had been canceled.
Scott said on Twitter that he was "absolutely devastated" by what happened and expressed his support for all those impacted.
Officials set up a reunification center at the Wyndham Houston at 8686 Kirby for anyone looking for missing AstroWorld attendees. Authorities were looking to connect families with festivalgoers who were transported to the hospital, “some as young as 10” years old, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said.
Houston police Executive Assistant Chief Lt. Larry Satterwhite, who was near the front, said the situation developed quickly.
"It seems like it happened with just over the course of a few minutes —suddenly we had several people down on the ground experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode," he said.
The surge happened shortly after 9 p.m. Friday. The show was called off shortly after several people began suffering injuries.
"It was scary, like genuinely," one concertgoer, Alleighya Odom, 21, told NBC News, adding that the tightly packed crowd "was like this force on my back, this continuous force."
"I started looking around and there's people on the ground, there's people looking at me like scared, eyes wild, like, 'please help me.'" she said. "There's people behind me crying because they're being stepped on."
“It may well be that this tragedy is the result of unpredictable events, of circumstances coming together that couldn’t possibly have been avoided," said Judge Lina Hidalgo, Harris County’s top elected official. "But until we determine that, I will ask the tough questions.”
“We're going to do an investigation and find out because it's not fair to the producers, to anybody else involved, until we determine what happened, what caused the surge,” he said. “We don't know, but we will find out.”
Billy Nasser described an area created by a stage barricade as a closet that people were thrown into and the door was shut. Joshua Robinson said the barricades created an area that “was just way too small and compact” for the number of people there.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said that authorities were investigating reports of suspicious activity in the crowd, including a security officer who told police that he felt a prick in his neck during the chaos and lost consciousness while being examined by first responders.
"He was revived by the opioid antidote Narcan," he said.
Finner also said that his department noticed attendees “going down” at 9:30 p.m. and immediately notified concert organizers. The event was called off 40 minutes later after discussions that included the fire department and officials with NRG Park.
On Saturday night, in a series of Instagram Story videos posted by Travis Scott, he said, "I want to send out prayers to the sort of ones that was lost last night. We're actually working right now to identify their families so we can help assist them through this tough time."
He continues, "You know, my fans, my fans, like our fans really mean the world to me and always just really want to leave them with a positive experience. I could just never imagined this severity of this situation. We've been working closely with everyone who is just trying to get to the bottom of this. The city of Houston, HPD, Fire Department."
The Astroworld Festival organizers said in a Facebook post that their hearts were with "those we lost and their loved ones."
They said they were cooperating with police and encouraged anyone with information on what happened in the crowd to speak with authorities.
The Associated Press reached out to a representative for Scott but did not immediately hear back.
Finner told reporters that Scott and the event promoters cooperated with police.
Scott founded Astroworld Festival in 2018 and it has taken place at the former site of Six Flags AstroWorld each year since, except for in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Other music events where there have been multiple fatalities in recent years include the Las Vegas massacre in 2017 when 58 people were killed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, the so-called Ghost Ship fire in 2016 that killed 36 people in California and the 2003 Station nightclub fire that killed 100 people in Rhode Island.