Astroworld employees may have to call dead fans ‘smurfs’

Astroworld employees were instructed to refer to potential dead concertgoers as “smurfs,” according to a plan for emergency medical care and safety — as witnesses described victims turning “black and blue.”

The 56-page Event Operations Plan, obtained by CNN, instructs staff at NRG Park in Houston never to use the terms “dead” or “deceased” on the radio.

Scoremore, the Austin-based promoter, instead instructed employees to use the codeword borrowed from the blue animated children’s characters, the document shows.

It’s unclear why the term “smurf” was chosen or whether staff actually used the code on the radio when referring to Astroworld victims — some of whom were described by eyewitnesses as blue when suffocating, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Instagram user @diabloxantiago said in a video that he saw people turning “black and blue” while receiving CPR, the paper said.

Houston office spokesman Brent Taylor said he believed the use of the codeword in the plan, which was drawn up before Friday’s deadly event, was “operational,” according to Yahoo News.

smurf astro world
It’s unclear why the term “smurf” was chosen or whether the staff actually used the code word.

He said he’d heard the term “smurf” used “second-hand” before, but referred questions to the promoter.

Eight people between the ages of 14 and 27 were killed and about 300 injured – including a 9-year-old boy in a coma – when a crowd of 50,000 concertgoers stormed the stage during rapper Travis Scott’s performance.

The detailed plan published by CNN also includes protocols for several dangerous situations, including active gunman, terrorist threat, possible riots and severe weather.

It’s not about the massive rapids, though, despite an incident from the same festival in November 2019, when three people were hospitalized after being trampled.

Travis Scott
Travis Scott performs onstage at the deadly Astroworld event.
Amy Harris/Invision/AP
A limp man is pulled from the crowd and carried past a barrier by security personnel during Travis Scott's performance at Astroworld.
A limp man is pulled from the crowd and carried past a barrier by security personnel during Travis Scott’s performance at Astroworld.
Brennon Moore via Storyful

“Based on the layout of the site and numerous past experiences, a security plan has been put in place to help mitigate potential negative issues within the festival’s scope,” CNN reports.

“The potential for multiple alcohol/drug related incidents, potential evacuation needs and the ever-present threat of a mass casualty situation are identified as the top concerns,” it says.

With regard to a large crowd, the plan says that “the key to properly handling these types of scenarios is proper crowd management from the moment the doors open.”

It adds: “Crowd management techniques will be used to identify potentially dangerous crowd behavior at an early stage in an effort to prevent disturbances/riots,” but those techniques are not explained further, according to the network.

An ambulance is seen in the crowd during the Astroworld music festival
Those affected by the massive influx include a 9-year-old boy who is in a coma.

The document also sets out a clear chain of command in the event of an incident, identifying the executive producer and festival director’s role as the only people authorized to stop the event.

Scoremore and national promoter Live Nation said in a statement they shared on Instagram on Monday that they provided police with event camera footage, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“We wanted to provide an update on the steps Scoremore, Live Nation and the Astroworld Fest team have taken,” they wrote. “We’ve been working all weekend to provide local authorities with everything they need from us to complete their investigation and give everyone the answers they’re looking for.”

Paul Wertheimer, founder and president of Crowd Management Strategies, said the industry knows the dangers of mass attendance and you need a specific plan to deal with the opportunity.

“It doesn’t even really appear in what’s the equivalent of Astroworld’s crowd management plan,” he told CNN.

“There is no reference to crowd growth, crowd crush, crowd panic. There is no reference to the front of the stage and the seats at the festival. And that’s why there’s no specific contingency planning for a mass victim-crowd crush event.”

Wertheimer said the mostly standard document refers to a risk assessment plan.

“We need to see that risk assessment plan,” he told the network, adding that it should outline how the organizers planned to deal with the types of events that had taken place at previous Scott shows.


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