Horror in Houston: A Breakdown of the Astroworld Festival Tragedy

Astroworld, a two-day music festival, began on November 5th and was named after rapper Travis Scott’s 2018 album of the same name. Around 50,000 people attended the festival when a crowd crush led to the deaths of 10 concertgoers, the youngest of whom was 9 years old, with hundreds of others sustaining serious injuries.  

This is not the first time Travis Scott concerts got out of hand. According to The New York Times, “Mr. Scott has also earned a reputation for concerts that feature high-concept stage production as well as wild, chaotic energy from his audience”.  

Part of this wild, chaotic energy is orchestrated by Scott himself. In 2015 Scott plead guilty to reckless conduct after instructing his fans to climb over security barriers. In 2017, Scott was sued by a fan who was pushed off a third-story balcony after Scott had encouraged him to jump. The fall left the fan paralyzed, and at Scott’s request, other concertgoers dragged him to the stage, perhaps exacerbating his injuries.  

While still under investigation, the events at Astroworld accumulated into one of the deadliest crowd crush events in recent years. While crowd crushes have happened at concerts and music festivals before, the events at Astroworld had the unique aspect of being recorded by concertgoers while also being live-streamed by Apple Music. 

A timeline of events that night reveals just how horrific the situation became. ABC News gathered social media posts and official documents from November 5th and pieced together how things at Astroworld turned deadly. 

The Timeline 

In the morning of November 5th concertgoers waited in line for hours before the venue opened. By the afternoon, people would push back security at the gate and begin filing into the park, buying merchandise, and attending concerts at the second stage. By 4 p.m., however, over 50 people had received medical treatment. An activity log for the Houston Police Department noted “dangerous crowd conditions.”  

Before Scott’s show, there were no concerts happening on the second stage, so all 50,000 attendants made their way to the stage. At this point, people were feeling cramped for space and were struggling to breathe. When the countdown for the concert began, spectators began pushing toward the stage.  

At 9 p.m. the concert began. Within minutes, people were struggling to stand and were showing “signs of distress.” 

Scott would stop the concert three times, two times for attendees he saw unconscious, and once for an ambulance. The Apple Stream and social media posts capture concertgoers screaming for help and for Scott to stop the show.  

At 9:30 p.m. things would start escalating quickly. Houston police and firefighters responded to an unconscious individual outside of a reserved section. A “domino effect” took place with people continuing to fall on top of one another, unable to get up. A concertgoer climbed onto a camera platform asking for help and for the show to be stopped. 

At 9:38 p.m. Houston Police officers and firefighters were aware that they were responding to a “mass casualty event”. The police log indicates that many people had collapsed and were being “crushed against the stage”.  

The concert stopped at 10:12 p.m. after rapper Drake performed with Scott. The Apple Stream ended. Over 300 people were treated, 25 were taken to the hospital, and 8 had died in the crowd. Live Nation has since claimed that they agreed to cut the show early, but Scott decided to continue performing and finish his set.  Scott’s attorneys claim he was unaware of what was happening.  

The Victims 

In the following days, 10 people would pass away from injuries sustained and asphyxiation consistent with crowd crush. The victims included: 

Franco Patino, 21 

John Hilbert, 14 

Brianna Rodriguez, 16 

Rudy Pena, 23 

Danish Baig 

Jacob E. Jurinek, 20 

Axel Acosta, 21 

Madison Dubiski, 23 

Bharti Shahani, 22 

Ezra Blout, 9

Of the 10 victims, 7 of them were close together in the South quadrant of the concert. The Washington Post hired crowd control professionals to analyze video footage. They determined the volume of concertgoers in this section was particularly high. This created pressure that caused concertgoers to asphyxiate and pass out, knocking others over and causing the trampling.   

Concertgoers from this section describe being pulled into the section in a current of people who had migrated from the second stage before Scott’s concert began. In these interviews with The Washington Post, attendees describe trying to leave the section but being fenced in on three sides, and the intense pushing that was coming from “all sides” made it impossible to move.  

Public Response 

An immense outpouring of sorrow and horror circulated on social media after the concert ended. Scott was seen at an arcade following the concert and days later posted a black and white apology video to his Instagram story.  

This apology video would first be picked apart and scrutinized by fans and social media users; then it would become a meme. Regardless, it cemented the public opinion that Scott might not have been so clueless to the chaos as he is claiming and if he truly wasn’t aware he simply did not care anyway. 

“I think he had to have known. How could he not have heard them screaming and chanting for him to stop the show if the Apple Stream picked it up? It was definitely loud.” says Rylie Kenney, a 21-year-old college student who has herself experienced concerts with dangerous crowds. 

Callie McGinnis, who has been to previous Astroworld Festivals, believes that this has been a long time coming. “Travis Scott has that ‘rager’ persona. People go to his concerts knowing they’re going to get crazy. Security and first responders have to be extra ready for artists with fanbases like that.” 

In a recent and viral interview with The Breakfast Club’s Charlamagne Tha God, Scott refrained from taking responsibility for the casualties at Astroworld saying, “well, you know, fans come to the show to have a good experience, you know, and I have a responsibility to figure out what happened here. I have a responsibility to find a solution, you know.”  

Sources: 

https://tinyurl.com/2kvb6d23

https://tinyurl.com/ycyd29rj

https://tinyurl.com/yckcs9c8

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