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Eight dead, 10-year-old critical following crowd surge at Astroworld festival in Houston

The events unfolded Friday night when "the crowd began to compress toward the front of the stage," officials said.
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Two teenagers were among the eight victims who died after a crowd surge Friday night during rapper Travis Scott's sold-out Astroworld music festival in Houston, officials said.

The identities of the eight people have not yet been released, but Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Saturday that one of the victims was 14, one was 16, two were 21, two were 23, one was 27 and one person's age has not been determined. Only six of the families have been notified.

Of the 25 people who were taken to hospitals, 13 remained hospitalized Saturday, and five of the injured are under 18, Turner said. A 10-year-old among the injured is in critical condition.

More than 300 people were also treated throughout the event Friday at an on-site field hospital, officials said.

The chaotic scene unfolded around 9:15 p.m. local time (10:15 p.m. ET) when "the crowd began to compress toward the front of the stage," Fire Chief Samuel Peña said at a news conference early Saturday.

"That caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries. People began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created additional panic," he said, adding that a cause of death was not yet known for the eight victims but would be determined.

Around 50,000 people were at the festival at NRG Park, which was hosted by Scott.

Officials said Saturday that 528 Houston Police Department officers provided security at the event and an additional 755 private security officers were provided by the entertainment company Live Nation.

Scott said he was "absolutely devastated" about what happened.

"My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival," he said in a tweet on Saturday. "Houston PD has my total support as they continue to look into the tragic loss of life.”

“I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need," he added.

The festival, which is in its third year, kicked off Friday and was expected to be a two-day event, but officials said Saturday's lineup had been canceled.

An NRG Park spokesperson said they were "deeply saddened by the heartbreaking loss of life and pain experienced by all those impacted by this tragedy."

"We are fully cooperating and working closely with police and local authorities as they investigate how this tragedy occurred at the Astroworld Festival," the spokesperson said.

One 16-year-old festivalgoer, who did not want to be identified, said the crowd began to push back and forth during a countdown around 8:30 p.m

"I couldn't even stand or breathe or anything, and I’m 6 feet tall and I was having to look up to the sky just to breathe before the show even started," he said. "As the countdown was going to zero, it didn't make it through one full song before people just started collapsing and falling back."

The teen, who was at the show with his brothers, said roughly 30 people were "dogpiled" on each other and screaming for help."

"People at the bottom were definitely suffocating," he said.

The teen said he was in the pile for about 15 minutes.

"I got bruises on me, my thumb is still numb," he said. "I thought I was going to die. It was literally like survival of the fittest. There was no escape. I’ve never seen grown men fighting for their life like that."

He was able to slip out of the pile and get to safety. He said he saw two or three bodies on the ground and heard others screaming, 'Help. I don’t want to die.'"

Alleighya Odom, 21, was also at the concert and said that the tightly packed crowd "was like this force on my back, this continuous force."

"It was scary, like, genuinely," Odom said.

"I started looking around, and there's people on the ground. There's people looking at me, like, scared, eyes wild, like, 'Please help me,'" she continued. "There's people behind me crying because they're being stepped on."

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Odom, who has been going to Astroworld since 2018, said she moved to a less crowded area because she has a broken ankle and feared injuring it further.

She added that she had not realized the severity of the situation until she saw frantic messages from her mother asking if she was safe.

"It's just crazy," she said.

Scott had stopped the show multiple times to request assistance for fans, she added.

Footage posted on social media also showed the rapper pausing his performance, and The Houston Chronicle reported the artist halted his act a number of times throughout the show after spotting fans in distress near the stage.

The rapper's girlfriend, Kylie Jenner, who is pregnant with their second child, was at the concert with her sister, Kendall Jenner. They both shared videos to their Instagram story of Scott performing for the packed crowd before the crowd surge. Neither one has publicly commented on the chaotic events.

Houston Police Department Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite, who was near the front of the concert, said at a news conference that the situation had developed quickly.

"It seems like it happened with just over the course of a few minutes — suddenly we had several people down on the ground experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode," he said. "We immediately started doing CPR."

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said Saturday that "one of the narratives” going around is that an individual at the festival was injecting people with drugs.

“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," Finner said.

The security officer went unconscious and was administered Narcan and was revived, according to Finner. The medical staff did notice a needle prick on the security officer's neck, he said.

Peña, the Houston fire chief, said there were “several instances” when Narcan had to be administered at the scene but did not provide further details.

Before the concert began,multiple people had been injured as festivalgoers rushed a front entrance, NBC affiliate KPRC of Houston reported. Odom said she felt it was "the first sign" of chaos to come at the show.

"As soon as people started running in I was like, 'Oh, no … this is going to be crazy,'" she said. "And the way people were running in, it was just really violent. They were ripping off wristbands off people in the line."

Finner said the deaths and injuries were not connected with that entrance being rushed, as the crush at the concert happened much later.

The Astroworld Festival organizers said in a Facebook post that their hearts were with "those we lost and their loved ones."

They said they were cooperating with police and encouraged anyone with information on what happened in the crowd to speak with authorities.

Gov. Greg Abbott said what happened at the festival was "tragic" and thanked first responders and good Samaritans for their assistance.

"The State of Texas is ready to assist in the response, and I have directed The Texas Department of Public Safety to make state resources available to support the investigation," he wrote in a statement.

Turner, the Houston mayor, said he has called for a "detailed briefing with all stakeholders," including law enforcement, Live Nation and NRG Park, to find out how the festival "got out of control."

"What happened at Astroworld Festival was a tragedy," he wrote. "This was a major event that happened in the city and on Harris County property. Today, law enforcement will speak with concert promoters and witnesses and review videos available from the event and inside the festival venue."

Scott, 29, is from Houston. He launched the Astroworld Festival in 2018 in his hometown as an annual event. The festival did not happen in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

His 2018 hit "Sicko Mode" reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 that year. He has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards, including for that song and the album "Astroworld."