HOUSTON (CN) — Eight people were killed Friday night at a Houston music festival when the crowd surged towards the stage as the festival’s founder, rapper Travis Scott, was performing.
Another 23 people, including some as young as 10, were taken by ambulance to the hospital, with 11 of them in cardiac arrest, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña and Harris County’s chief executive Lina Hidalgo said at a news conference Friday night.
More than people 300 were treated for minor injuries at a “field hospital” set up on site by the organizers of the Astroworld Music Festival, where an estimated 50,000 were in attendance when Scott, an eight-time Grammy nominee, took the stage.
The trouble started when fans towards the back of the crowd pushed forward to get closer to the stage.
“The crowd began to compress towards the front of the stage, and that caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries,” Peña said. “People began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created additional panic.”
Scott, 29, saw someone fall to the ground as he was performing and stopped the show, calling out, “Security, somebody help, real quick!”
The surge seemed like it happened within minutes, Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite said.
“Suddenly we had several people down on the ground, experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode,” Satterwhite said. “And so we immediately started doing CPR, and moving people right then.”
The deceased had yet to be identified early Saturday. Officials did not immediately know their causes of death, which will be determined by a medical examiner, Peña said at the press briefing.
The sold-out music festival at NRG Stadium in Houston was scheduled for Friday and Saturday, but Saturday’s performances were canceled by the festival organizer Live Nation. Scott started the festival in 2018.
“Our hearts are with the Astroworld Festival family tonight—especially those we lost and their loved ones,” the organizer’s said in a statement posted on social media early Saturday.
“We are focused on supporting local officials however we can. With that in mind the festival will no longer be held on Saturday,” they added. “As authorities mentioned in their press conference earlier they are looking into the series of cardiac arrests that took place. If you have any relevant information on this please reach out to @houstonpolice.”
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner told reporters Friday evening it’s unclear what caused the surge, but Live Nation had agreed to let police review video of the crowd.
He said there were a lot of rumors spreading about the incident, including that people had injected concertgoers with drugs.
“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. And is there anything criminal? We’ve heard rumors of people injecting some people with drugs. So I want to check all that.”
Officials have set up a reunification center at a hotel across the street from NRG stadium where Finner said counselors would be available for victims and their families.
“Our hearts are broken,” said Hidalgo, the elected chief executive of Harris County, which includes Houston.
“People go to these events looking for a good time, a chance to unwind, to make memories. It’s not the kind of event you go to where you expect to find out about fatalities.”
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