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Astroworld victims mourned as man saving his fiancée, young man 'larger-than-life'

Family and friends mourned those who died during rapper Travis Scott’s Astroworld music festival in Houston.
Top row from left, Brianna Rodriguez, Rodolfo Pena, Madison Dubiski, Axel Acosta Avila. Bottom, Franco Patino, Jacob Jurinek, Danish Baig and John Hilgert.
Top row from left, Brianna Rodriguez, Rodolfo Pena, Madison Dubiski, Axel Acosta Avila. Bottom, Franco Patino, Jacob Jurinek, Danish Baig and John Hilgert.NBC News

A man who died saving his fiancée, the “love of his life.” A college junior who was beloved by friends and family for “his boundless energy, and his unwavering positive attitude.” A young man who “would always try to make time for his family and the people he cared about.” Two teenagers.

These were among the eight victims, aged 14 to 27, who were killed in a crowd surge Friday night during rapper Travis Scott’s sold-out Astroworld music festival in Houston. Dozens more were injured.

The chaos at the Houston festival unfolded Friday shortly after 9 p.m. when members in the audience of 50,000 “began to compress toward the front of the stage,” officials have said.

Family, friends and attorneys mourned the young lives cut short and called for justice. 

Harris County on Monday identified those killed as Mirza Baig, 27; Rodolfo Peña, 23; Madison Dubiski, 23; Franco Patino, 21; Jacob Jurinek, 20; John Hilgert, 14; Axel Acosta Avila, 21; Brianna Rodriguez, 16.

Here is what we know about the victims.

Danish Baig

Danish Baig, a 27-year-old who had “a beautiful life,” died trying to save his fiancée, who was being stomped on and kicked during the rush of the crowd, his family members said Sunday.

Danish Baig.
Danish Baig.via Facebook

“He died trying to save his love of his life,” Basil Baig said on Sunday shortly after burying his brother, according to NBC affiliate NBC DFW. “My brother was trying to save her and he did. He saved her and it cost him his life.”

Speaking through tears, Baig said Danish, who was identified by Harris County officials as Mirza Baig, was “the most amazing person ever to us” and that his brother took care of his parents and siblings. 

Baig and his family called for someone to be held accountable.

“You go to a concert to have fun," he said. "You don’t go to a concert to die."

Tony Ray, a neighbor, called Danish Baig the “heartbeat of the family.”

Jacob “Jake” Jurinek

Jacob Jurinek, 20, known as “Big Jake” to his loved ones, was a junior at Southern Illinois University—Carbondale and was following his passion in studying art and media, his family said in a statement. 

Jacob Jurinek
Jacob JurinekCourtesy Jurinek family

“Jake was beloved by his family and by his seemingly countless number of friends for his contagious enthusiasm, his boundless energy, and his unwavering positive attitude,” his family said in the statement. “He was an avid fan of music, an artist, a son, a best friend to many, and a loving and beloved cousin, nephew, and grandson.”

His little cousins lovingly called him “Big Jake,” which fit his “larger-than-life personality,” according to his family.

He was a best friend to his father, Ron Jurinek. 

“Jake and Ron were brought closer together than ever by a preceding tragedy, the passing of Jake’s mother Alison in 2011,” the family said in the statement. “In the decade since, Jake and Ron were inseparable — attending White Sox and Blackhawks games, sharing their love of professional wrestling, and spending weekends with extended family and friends at Jake’s favorite place, the family cottage in Southwestern Michigan.”

“We are all devastated and are left with a huge hole in our lives,” Ron Jurinek said in the statement. “We’re comforted by the fact that the hundreds of people Jake touched over the years will carry a piece his spirit with them.”

Southern Illinois University-Carbondale said in a statement that Jurinek was “a creative, intelligent young man, with a promising career in journalism and advertising.”

“As we mourn this loss in our community, we will keep Jacob’s family and friends in our thoughts,” the university said.

Franco Patino

Franco C. Patino, 21, was a senior at the University of Dayton in Ohio and “was loved by so many because of the loyal, loving, selfless, protective, funny, and caring person he was,” his family said in a statement.

Franco Patino.
Franco Patino.University of Dayton

“Even though he was a hardworking individual, he would always try to make time for his family and the people he cared about,” the statement said.

Patino was studying mechanical engineering technology as his major, with a minor in human movement biomechanics, his family and university said.  He was the treasurer of Alpha Psi Lambda, a Hispanic interest fraternity, and was also the president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at the university, the Patino family statement said.

During high school, Patino was also involved in the football, wrestling and rugby teams for four years and afterward organized rugby games with nearby universities, the family said.

“We will miss the big heart Franco had and his passion for helping others. We’re glad Franco always tried to live life to the fullest and are glad to know he was the type of person that would put others before himself until the very end.”

Axel Acosta

Axel Acosta, from Tieton, Washington, was an “excellent son” who took care of his cousins and was studying to be an engineer or computer programer, his family and attorney said Monday.

Acosta had just turned 21 and came from an “extremely close family” that is reeling from his loss, the family’s lawyer Tony Buzbee said at a news conference Monday afternoon. 

Axel Acosta.
Axel Acosta.Courtesy Joel Acosta

“This was needless. It was unnecessary and could have easily been prevented,” Buzbee said. 

Axel’s father, Edgar Acosta, said he is “devastated” at the loss of his son and hopes a lawsuit being brought on behalf of his family and others will change how such events are run.

“Today it’s me, I lost my son. It could’ve been you,” Acosta said.

Acosta said his son was a “great kid” and an “excellent” son and student who looked out for his family as the oldest and first grandchild. He wanted to be an engineer or computer programmer, the father said.

Buzbee said that “the immense force of the unruly and out of control crowd created by the defendants’ gross negligence created such significant pressure onto his body that he could not breathe.”

“The air was literally slowly squeezed out of him, sending his heart into cardiac arrest. When he collapsed, concertgoers trying to escape their own suffocation caused by the crowd rush, trampled over his body like a piece of trash,” the attorney said. 

“When emergency caregivers finally removed Axel from the thick of human mass, he lay lifeless on the wet, littered grass at the edge of the chaos,” Buzbee said. “They worked very hard to restart his heart, but they failed. Axel died on the muddy ground of a concert that he attended for fun.”

John Hilgert

John Hilgert, the youngest victim at the festival identified by authorities, was just 14 years old and “had an unforgettable smile and a passion for baseball that was rivaled by very few,” according to a youth baseball program.

Hilgert was a member of Marucci Elite Texas, a youth baseball program, since he was 12, according to a post on Facebook by Jordan Venerable, director of baseball operations for the program.

John Hilgert
John Hilgert.Courtesy of Hilgert family

“You never had to question John’s ‘want to’ or his effort. He wanted to be the best he could be every day, every game, every pitch. He was the epitome of our motto, ‘In Or In The Way,’ and we couldn’t have been prouder to have him represent our family,” the post said. “Although it is tough to understand why John was called back home so early in life, we have to trust that God has a plan for him. This isn’t goodbye, it’s ‘until next time.’ Fly high young man.”