‘Stop the show!’ Concertgoers in Houston describe chaos

HOUSTON (AP) — Screaming. suffocating. Panic. unconscious.

Concert-goers at a much-anticipated Houston music festival Friday night said they were shocked by how the brush turned into a fatal pandemic that killed at least eight people.

Rapper Travis Scott headlined the sold-out Astroworld Festival at NRG Park, which was attended by an estimated 50,000 people.

Here some of them describe the chaos they are still trying to understand.

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New York’s Ariel Little found herself in the center of the crowd in a prime viewing spot with her husband for just a short minute before she started wrestling.

It was in an attempt to escape the increasingly crowded venue that the pair realized just how dangerous it was getting.

Little’s voice trembled with emotion as she described how small she felt, gasping for breath as she was beaten up by the crowd.

“My chest is in so much pain from people pushing and crushing – literally crushing – my chest and in my lungs. And all I can remember is him yelling. ‘I have to get out! I have to get out!’ And the people didn’t move,” Little said. “They thought it was a joke, but it was like literally people were dying.”

More about the deaths at the music festival

Her husband, Shawn, quickly surveyed the scene to find a way out.

“There were a lot of people in my section who sort of screamed and had panic attacks just because it almost felt like you were under an elevator and the elevator was coming up to you and there was nothing you could do about it,” Shawn Little said. “No one in my section moved at the time because I think everyone was just in shock at how crazy and how panicked everyone was. There was a lot of fear in people’s eyes.”

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Madeline Eskins is an ICU nurse who said she was one of the festival-goers who passed out as the crowd pressed closer to the stage. She was taken to a slightly less crowded room for medical attention, where she awoke.

Eskins, 23, of Houston, said she saw someone nearby who needed medical attention and told them she was a nurse. When a guard heard her, he asked if she could help others, Eskins said.

“There were three people on the ground getting CPR and the most disorganized chaos I’ve ever seen in my life,” Eskins said.

Eskins said she tried to guide medical personnel and volunteers on how to use a defibrillator, and she also helped monitor heartbeats and perform CPR compressions on several people.

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“When the main artist came out — like Travis — people were compressed because they just wanted to see him,” Salinas said. “It was like you were suffocated in there. If you weren’t on the sidelines or something, you’d suffocate.”

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Niaara Goods, 28, of New York, said the crowd increased when a timer clicked to the start of the performance.

“As soon as he jumped off the stage, it was like an energy took over and everything went haywire. Suddenly your ribs are crushed. You have someone’s arm around your neck. You try to breathe but you can’t,” said Goods, who traveled to Texas to see friends and celebrate a birthday.

She said she and her friends, one of whom was hit on the head and jaw, were quickly separated, but all escaped. Goods said she was so desperate to get out that she bit a man on the shoulder to get him to move.

“Some people laugh at us – the ones screaming to get out. Because they thought it was funny. They didn’t know it was terror,” she said.

Later, after she got to safety, she saw the injured get to safety in stretchers or in wheelchairs.

“It was literally the scariest night of my life. I literally thought I was going to die trying to get out. You just don’t pay for that,” she says.

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Gary Gaston, 52, of Houston said he went to the concert with his ex-wife, their 14-year-old son and the teenager’s boyfriend.

After just a few songs from Scott, they felt so threatened that they decided to leave and meet outside the medical tent.

When Gaston and his ex-wife arrived shortly after 10 p.m., he said medical personnel began to move at least eight people on stretchers into the tent, most of whom did not respond.

“It was surreal because you see these people being pulled on these stretchers and people running into the medical tent, but the music still goes on,” Gaston said. “People in the arena didn’t know.”

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Gavyn Flores said people kept trying to crawl into spaces where none were left, while others tried to make their way to the barricades to jump to safety.

“They couldn’t get there because there were people blocking them, so those people just had to deal with it like they couldn’t leave the show,” Flores said. ‘They were shouting ‘Stop the show!’ and there was a man in the back who was being resuscitated. So many people were resuscitated, as if it were absurd.”

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Julian Ponce said there were signs of injuries, but he didn’t realize there were any deaths until he got home.

“It was kind of mind-blowing, like we kept hearing people say, ‘Stop the show. Stop the show,’ but we didn’t know what was going on. We heard someone was bleeding. We heard a lot of things and we were not so sure,” Ponce said. “I don’t even know how to feel. It’s just breathtaking.”

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Associated Press reporter Acacia Coronado contributed from Austin, Texas.

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