HOUSTON, Nov. 6 (Reuters) – A stampede of fans heading for the stage at rap star Travis Scott’s Astroworld music festival in Houston killed at least eight people and injured dozens more as the Panic was spreading through the crowd, which was largely made up of young spectators, officials said on Saturday. .
City Police Chief Troy Finner said his department opened a criminal investigation by homicide and narcotics detectives following unconfirmed reports that someone in the public was “injecting drugs. to other people “.
The disaster unfolded at NRG Park around 9:30 p.m. Friday during the flagship performance of Scott, a Grammy-nominated singer and producer, following what police and members of the crowd described as an escalation in behavior unruly throughout the day.
As the 50,000 sold-out spectators crowded towards the stage, people began to pass out, some apparently suffering from cardiac arrest or other medical conditions, officials told reporters outside the theater. room. A few minutes later, the chaos was declared a “mass incident”.
“It happened all of a sudden. It looked like it had just happened… in just a few minutes,” said Houston Deputy Police Chief Larry Satterwhite, who was at the front of the event when the situation started.
Satterwhite said he immediately met with the promoters and they agreed to stop the show. Officials said the concert ended at 10:10 p.m.
Finner said that among the “accounts” examined by the police, there were reports suggesting “that a person was injecting drugs into other people.”
Report implicated security guard “who felt a prick in his neck” as he attempted to restrain or grab someone, then fell unconscious, to be resuscitated with a dose of the opioid antidote naloxone, Finner said, citing a doctor’s report. staff who treated the agent.
Finner said medical staff also noticed what appeared to be a needle mark on the officer’s neck.
It was not clear if authorities suspected that such an episode played a role in the influx of crowds, but Finner said: “We’re going to get to the bottom of this.”
Police were awaiting autopsies to determine the cause of death, but said some victims had been trampled on.
Scott posted a 90-second video to social media late Saturday, claiming that on stage “I just could never imagine the gravity of the situation.”
City fire chief Samuel Peña said it appeared the site had plenty of exit routes for fans and none were obstructed.
Twenty-five people were taken to hospital by ambulance after the crash began, some in cardiac arrest, 13 of whom are still hospitalized on Saturday – five under the age of 18 – after four patients were discharged, said Mayor Sylvester Turner to reporters. Eight people died. Most were between 14 and 27 years old, although the age of a victim was not immediately known, Turner said.
“IT LOOKED LIKE A RIOT”
After swarming the front doors and merchandise stalls early in the day, the crowd grew increasingly unruly as the performers took to the stage, according to Hamad Al Barrak, a 19-year-old festival-goer.
“It was just too crowded,” said Al Barrak, who described the chaos as he tried to buy festival material. “We were all pressed together. You felt like you couldn’t breathe.”
Albert Merza, 43, one of an eight-person group from Detroit attending the festival, said he saw “a lot of drinking and crazy behavior.”
“It looked like a riot,” he said, adding that it looked like about half of the crowd was under 21. “There were people throwing stuff, things flying everywhere.”
Nick Johnson, 17, said he witnessed a steady increase in disruptive behavior before the stampede.
“It went on for over two hours, and it just got worse and worse,” he said.
An incident earlier today in which fans started “rushing” to the festival gates was brought under control fairly quickly, said Finner, the police chief, adding that he did not appear to be related to the event. murderous stampede.
Finner said police assigned 528 officers to the festival on Friday, as well as 755 private security personnel.
Throughout the day, 25 arrests were made – one for possession of marijuana and public intoxication and the rest for trespassing, Finner said. Three hundred people were treated at an on-site medical clinic for various injuries and illnesses, including several apparent drug overdoses, according to Peña.
The venue could have accommodated up to 200,000 people, but organizers limited the crowd to 50,000, based on ticket sales, Peña said.
Scott, born in Houston, said he was “absolutely devastated” and pledged to support the police in their investigation.
“My prayers go out to the families and to all who are affected”, Scott wrote on Twitter.
Peña described how the fan crush quickly overwhelmed private medical staff at the festival, a two-day affair that was set to peak on Saturday but was called off after the Friday night tragedy.
Videos posted to social media showed a pandemonium as fans and staff tried to draw attention to injured spectators. One video showed fans trying to educate cameramen about the dangerous situation. Another video showed people waving their hands towards the stage and chanting “Stop the show!” “
The investigation is likely to focus on safety and security protocols. Two weeks ago, another Houston concert was canceled after fans rushed to a Playboi Carti show that was being held at the same NRG Park complex.
Jennifer Ortega, 22, who arrived at Friday’s event around 1 p.m., said access was ordered at that time. But at 4 p.m., the crowd on the smaller of the festival’s two stages “got pretty reckless,” with people throwing water bottles. She said she saw about three people leaving the area with bloody noses and missing teeth.
Organizers said they were cooperating with police.
“We are focused on supporting local officials as much as we can,” Astroworld Fest, an event hosted by Live Nation Entertainment (LYV.N), said on Twitter.
Scott stopped several times during his 75-minute performance when he spotted fans in distress and asked security to keep them safe, a video posted online showed. Emergency vehicles, flashing lights and alarms, cross the public several times.
“We need someone to help us. Someone has passed out here,” Scott said, according to a video from his set, which included an appearance by Canadian rapper Drake. “Safety, someone, jump in here real quick.”
Another video clip showed police performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on several people even as music blared in the background.
The tragedy dates back to a 1979 concert by British rock band The Who in which 11 people were killed when fans rushed into Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum ahead of the event.
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Scott, who rose to fame in the early 2010s for his unique vocal style, has a daughter with Kylie Jenner of the famous Kardashians. Astroworld is also the name of his critically acclaimed third studio album released in 2018.
Reporting by Erwin Seba in Houston; Additional reporting from Sabrina Valle and Gary McWilliams in Houston, Rich McKay in Atlanta, Bhargav Acharya and Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru, Timothy Gardener and Pete Schroeder in Washington, Tim Reid and Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles, and Nathan Layne in Kenosha, Wisconsin; Written by Frank McGurty, Nathan Layne and Steve Gorman; Editing by Giles Elgood, Frances Kerry and Daniel Wallis
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