Astroworld: Criminal investigation into Texas festival crowd surge

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Media caption,
Astroworld security officer "felt a prick in his neck" – Houston Police Chief Troy Finner

Police in Houston, Texas, have opened a criminal investigation into the deaths of revellers at the Astroworld festival on Friday.

At least eight people died and hundreds more were hurt after a crowd surge on the opening night of the music event.

The victims were aged between 14 and 27. Some of their identities have started to be publicly released.

Police are also investigating reports that somebody in the audience was injecting people with drugs.

The incident began around 21:15 on Friday (02:15 GMT Saturday) when panic broke out as the crowd began to press towards the front of the stage during the rapper Travis Scott's headline set.

As people started getting hurt, panic grew and the casualties quickly overwhelmed the on-site first aiders, officials said. Some 300 people were treated for injuries such as cuts and bruises.

The police investigation into the tragedy will involve the homicide and narcotics divisions, and will review video from the scene to determine what caused the surge and why people could not escape.

Several concert goers had to be revived with anti-drug overdose medicine, including a security officer who police said appeared to have an injection mark on his neck.

"We do have a report of a security officer... that he was reaching over to restrain or grab a citizen and he felt a prick in his neck," Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said.

"When he was examined he went unconscious," he added. "He was revived and the medical staff did notice a prick that was similar to a prick that you would get if somebody is trying to inject."

Meanwhile, the names of some of the victims are starting to emerge.

Brianna Rodriguez, 16, was a junior at Heights High School in Houston. "Dancing was her passion and now she's dancing her way to heaven's pearly gates", her family wrote on Facebook.

Danish Baig was 27. His brother posted on Facebook that he had been killed while trying to save another relative in the crush.

Rudy Peña, from Laredo, Texas, also died in the tragedy. His age has not yet been confirmed.

Franco Patino, 21, was an engineering student at the University of Dayton. His university confirmed his death to local TV station WHIO.

Image source, Franco Patino/LinkedIn
Image caption,
Franco Patino was majoring in mechanical engineering

In his first statement since the event on Twitter, Travis Scott thanked the police and emergency services and said he was "committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need".

Later he posted a video message on Instagram, in which he encouraged anyone with information about the incident to contact the authorities.

Media caption,
"I'm honestly just devastated" – Travis Scott posted this video on Instagram

Scott, whose real name is Jacques Webster, made his big breakthrough in 2013 and has since had eight nominations for Grammy Awards. He has a child - and another one on the way - with socialite Kylie Jenner, who was among the 50,000 people at the festival.

She posted on Instagram that they were "broken and devastated."

"I want to make it clear we weren't aware of any fatalities until the news came out after the show and in no world would have continued filming or performing", she wrote.

In 2018, Travis Scott pleaded guilty to a public disorder charge after he was accused of encouraging people to rush the stage at a concert in the US state of Arkansas.

According to a local newspaper, he also paid nearly $7,000 (£5,186) to two people who said they were injured at the 2018 event.

Sense of belonging turned deadly

Angelica Casas, BBC News, Houston

The night wasn't supposed to end like it did. Today, the streets surrounding the Astroworld festival grounds are still mostly closed off, and the venue is almost empty except for staff and a heavy police presence.

Edward, a 25-year-old Houston native and a long-time Travis Scott fan, attended Friday's performances, and both previous Astroworld festivals.

He was right in the middle of the crowd when, he says, things began to get ugly. As the surge grew worse in a matter of minutes, desperate concert-goers tried to escape, pushing and pulling.

"I personally had a girl grab and hold on to me for dear life," he said. "I had to calm her down because she literally thought she was about to die."

Edward says he made a protective circle with his arms around her so she could catch her breath. He was able to pull her out of the crowd and help her to safety. As he walked out, he saw unconscious people around him, some already receiving CPR.

Another attendee, Andy Pacheco, filmed the moment concert-goer Seanna Faith, in a desperate plea for help, climbed on to a platform where a cameraman was stationed to ask him to do something about the crowd surge. She wanted the cameraman to call police or medics. But her plea for help was in vain.

Ms Faith later wrote online that she had just escaped a "sinkhole" of people as the crowding had become more intense.

She managed to pull herself and a friend out and was trying to get help for the others.

People come to these festivals to escape reality and feel like they belong in a music community. On Friday night, that sense of belonging turned deadly.

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