Astroworld Festival: Authorities investigate how audience members couldn’t escape a deadly crowd

The crowd at Friday night’s sold-out Astroworld Festival was so packed that when audience members were pushed to the stage, some told CNN they were crushed together so much that they couldn’t breathe and passed out.

Local officials have vowed to launch an investigation into what led to the tragedy at the music festival awarded and hosted by rapper Travis Scott, saying they would watch the video of the scene and assess how the venue was laid out.

The investigation will address “what caused, one, the crowd-growth issue, and two, what prevented people from escaping that situation,” Houston fire chief Sam Peña said Saturday.

The Houston Police Department’s Homicide and Narcotics Departments are involved in the investigation, but the investigation is not being treated as criminal, police said.

“We’re definitely reviewing all the video footage, we’re talking to witnesses, we’re talking to event organizers,” Houston mayor Sylvester Turner told CNN on Saturday. “This happened last night at one of the provincial facilities, so we’re looking at everything.”

The chaos sent at least 25 people to the hospital, and 13 of them remained there Saturday afternoon, Turner said. Five of them are under the age of 18, he said.

The ages of the victims who died ranged from 14 to 27, and the age of one person who was killed remains unknown, Turner said.

The causes of their deaths are pending the coroner’s determination, Peña said.

What is Astroworld?  Who is Travis Scott?  And other things to know about the incident
With 50,000 people in attendance at NRG Park — the stadium complex that houses the Astrodome and NRG Stadium — the crowd surge began to unfold after 9 p.m. CT on Friday.

“The crowd started pushing for whatever reason and pouring into the front of the stage, squeezing the people in front — they couldn’t escape that situation,” Peña told CNN.

Scott was on the outdoor stage when he paused, watching the crowd in confusion as an ambulance with flashing lights drove through the crowd, according to a video of the event.

Scott posted on his Instagram account on Saturday that he was sending out prayers for the lives lost, adding that he was cooperating with Houston authorities.

“I’m really devastated,” Scott said, sighing repeatedly and rubbing his forehead. “We are now in the process of identifying the families so that we can help them through this difficult time.”

‘It felt like we were drowning in a pool filled with only people’

With dozens injured when they went to onstage, some onlookers told CNN they couldn’t breathe and thought they were going to die.

Sarai Sierra, who went to the festival to celebrate her birthday, said she saw several people who couldn’t breathe after Scott appeared on stage.

“I really thought if I fell it would be my end. I spent at least 15 minutes just being pushed around because of moshpits or just because people were ‘raging,'” Sierra said.

"Out of your control."  The recipe for a deadly crowd crush

Sierra, who attended the festival with friends and family, added that she saw about 20 people who could not breathe, including one person who had a seizure before her eyes.

“It felt like we were drowning in a pool filled with just people,” she said.

Nick Johnson and Angel Rodriguez, who also attended the festival, said a busy atmosphere had built up over an extended period of time.

“It took more than two hours,” Johnson said. “It just got worse and worse. Everyone is like, you just can’t breathe, you just feel like there’s a weighted blanket on you.”

And once people were pushed to the stage, breathing became more challenging, Rodriguez explained.

“When you get pushed back, people always fall over,” said Rodriguez.

    A festival patron leads flowers outside the canceled Astroworld festival at NRG Park on Nov. 6, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Security guard fell unconscious

In 2019, the festival faced a similar circumstance, with three people being trampled and hospitalized as thousands rushed to enter the festival.

Officials stepped up security after the 2019 trampling incident, with 528 Houston police officers at the concert and another 755 private security personnel, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said.

Yet a security guard was punched in the neck during the concert while trying to stop an audience member.

Travis Scott says he "destroyed"  after 8 people died during his Astroworld Festival

“When he was examined, he passed out. They administered Narcan,” Finner said at a news conference on Saturday. “He was revived and the medical staff noticed a shot similar to what you would get if someone tried to inject. That’s part of it.”

In addition, there were several other incidents Friday where the drug was administered, Peña said.

Narcan is a drug used to treat narcotic overdose.

Other attempts to save lives included resuscitating some people. Former Marine Lucas Naccarati said he performed CPR on two people who passed out.

“That was a different world. I immediately thought: this is not okay. Someone is going to die here,” he told CNN. “I’ve never seen a massive amount of bodies fall so quickly.”

CNN’s Melissa Alonso, Maya Brown, Keith Allen, Jenn Selva, Andy Rose, Artemis Moshtaghian, Jason Hanna and Claudia Dominguez contributed to this report.

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