Travis Scott concert: Tributes paid as police probe concert stampede deaths

ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore reports on the worst US concert disaster in nearly two decades

Family and friends have paid tribute to those who died following a crowd surge at rapper Travis Scott's Astroworld music festival in Texas.

As mourning begins, police have started to investigate the music festival, where eight in total were killed and hundreds were hurt.

Authorities planned to use videos, witness interviews and a review of concert procedures to figure out what went wrong on Friday night during a performance by Scott, who headlined his own festival.

The tragedy unfolded when the crowd rushed toward the stage, squeezing people so tightly they couldn’t breathe.

Victims who have been named so far

Franco Patino, 21, was an engineering student at the University of Dayton

John Hilgert, 14, was a high school student whose baseball coach described him as "one of the nicest human beings he'd ever met". The headteacher of Mr Hilgert's school, Memorial High in Texas, called his death a "terrible loss".

Brianna Rodriguez, 16, was a high school pupil whose family remembered her as a "beautiful, vibrant" student with a passion for dancing.

Rudy Peña, whose age has not yet been confirmed, was the "sweetest person" who was a "big fan" of Scott, his sister told a local paper

Those killed range in age from 14 to 27. Authorities have not disclosed the causes of death.

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said 25 people were taken to hospital in total - 13 of those are admitted.

On Saturday, police in Houston said they were investigating whether someone injecting the crowd with drugs at random caused the surge.

The city's police chief Troy Finner said authorities were investigating reports of suspicious activity in the crowd, including a security officer who told police that he felt a prick in his neck during the chaos and lost consciousness while being examined by first responders. He was revived by the opioid antidote Narcan.

Houston's police chief said investigations are being carried out into reports someone in the audience was injecting others

Mayor Turner called the disaster “a tragedy on many different levels” and said it was too early to draw conclusions about what went wrong.

“It may well be that this tragedy is the result of unpredictable events, of circumstances coming together that couldn’t possibly have been avoided,” said Judge Lina Hidalgo, Harris County’s top elected official.

“But until we determine that, I will ask the tough questions.”

In a video posted on his Instagram account on Saturday, Scott said he was "devastated" by what had happened and urged anyone with information to contact police.

"I could never imagine anything like this happening," he said.

"I’m going to do everything I can and keep you guys updated."

Experts who have studied deaths caused by crowd surges say they are often a result of density – too many people packed into a small space.

The crowd is often running either away from a perceived threat or toward something they want, such as a performer, before hitting a barrier.

People in the Houston crowd reported lots of pushing and shoving during the performances leading up to Scott’s set.

Then when Scott took the stage, the crowd seemed to rush to the front, trying to get closer to the stage, said Nick Johnson, a high school pupil who was at the concert with friends.

“Everyone was passing out around you, and everyone was trying to help each other. But you just couldn’t move. You couldn’t do anything. You can’t even pick your arms up,” he said.

“It just got worse and worse.”

He said fans started to crush each other, and people started screaming. He said it felt like "100°C" in the crowd.

Scott seemed to be aware that something was going on in the crowd, but he might not have understood the severity of the situation, Mr Johnson said.

Mr Finner said his department noticed attendees “going down” at 9.30pm and immediately notified concert organisers. The event was called off 40 minutes later after discussions that included the fire department and officials with NRG Park.

The police chief defended the amount of time it took for the event to be canceled.

“You cannot just close when you’ve got 50,000 - over 50,000 - individuals, OK?” he said.

“We have to worry about rioting - riots - when you have a group that’s that young.”

Based on fire codes, the venue could have held 200,000 people, but city officials limited the attendance to 50,000, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said.

“It was the crowd control at the point of the stage that was the issue, especially as the crowd began to surge toward the stage,” Peña said.

Travis Scott continued performing his set at Astroworld while crowds surged to the stage. Credit: AP

On video posted to social media, Scott could be seen stopping the concert at one point and asking for aid for someone in the audience: “Security, somebody help real quick.”

Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite, who was near the front of the crowd, said the surge “happened all at once”.

“Suddenly we had several people down on the ground, experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode,” Mr Satterwhite said.

“And so we immediately started doing CPR and moving people right then.”

He said promoters quickly agreed to end the event “in the interest of public safety”.

Concertgoer Niaara Goods said as soon as Scott jumped on stage "it was like an energy took over and everything went haywire".

“All of a sudden, your ribs are being crushed. You have someone’s arm in your neck. You’re trying to breathe, but you can’t," she said.

Another concertgoer, Gerardo Abad-Garcia, said he was pressed so tightly into the crowd that he could not move his arms off his chest.

The crowd watches as Travis Scott performs Credit: Jamaal Ellis/Houston Chronicle/AP

During Don Toliver’s performance, which came before Scott’s appearance, he started getting concerned for his safety.

“I just couldn’t breathe. I was being compressed,” he said. A security guard helped him and others climb a fence and get out.

He described the crowd during Scott’s set as a wave that was “going forward and backward”.

Some people lost their shoes, and the ground was littered with clothing and rubbish. He said some people tried to help those who were passed out on the ground, while other concertgoers seemed to ignore them and continued watching the show.

Some audience members said barricades erected near the stage and to separate different sections of ticket holders prevented fans from escaping.

Billy Nasser described an area created by a stage barricade as a closet that people were thrown into and the door was shut. Joshua Robinson said the barricades created an area that “was just way too small and compact” for the number of people there.

Part of the investigation will include reviewing how the area around the stage was designed, the fire chief said.

Scott, 29, one of music’s biggest young stars, founded the Astroworld Festival in 2018.

Drake joined Scott on-stage at the concert, which was livestreamed by Apple Music.

He is from Houston and has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards. He has a three-year-old daughter with reality start Kylie Jenner, who announced in September that she is pregnant with their second child.

The deadly surge caused the most deaths at a US concert since the 2003 Station nightclub fire that killed 100 people in Rhode Island. Eleven people died and about two dozen were injured in 1979 at a concert for The Who as thousands of fans tried to get into Cincinnati’s riverfront coliseum.

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