Rapper Travis Scott and others should have stopped Friday's Astroworld music festival as soon as they became aware of a crowd surge that ultimately left eight people dead and dozens more injured, Houston's fire chief said Tuesday.
"Absolutely. Look: We all have a responsibility. Everybody at that event has a responsibility, starting from the artist on down," Chief Samuel Peña said on NBC’s “TODAY” show when co-host Savannah Guthrie asked him whether he believed Scott should have called an end to the concert once he saw what was taking place.
He said evidence shows that attendees tried to approach some of Scott's private security officers to alert them that something was wrong.
"At one point, there was an ambulance that was trying to make its way through the crowd. And he's got, the artist has, command of that crowd," Peña said.
"The artist, if he notices something that’s going on, he can certainly pause that performance, turn on the lights and say, 'Hey, we’re not going to continue until this thing is resolved.' That’s one way to do it, yes."
Kylie Jenner, who is pregnant with her second child with Scott, wrote early Sunday on Instagram that she and Scott were unaware of what was happening until after the show.
“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 said in the post.
Sources close to Astroworld also defended Scott.
“It was impossible for Travis to tell of the severity of what was happening while on stage and once he was notified, he stopped the show," they said in an email. "There’s been a lot of misconceptions that he continued to play after finding out people were seriously injured and that’s entirely false.”
The sources pointed to earlier statements from Houston Police Chief Troy Finner, who said there was concern about stopping a show so abruptly out of fear of riots or an additional surge.
“You cannot just close when you got 50,000 and over 50,000 individuals,” Finner has said. “We have to worry about rioting, riots, when you have a group that’s that young.”
Peña said the chaos began Friday when "the crowd began to push towards the front to get as close to the stage as they could when Mr. Scott’s set began."
Finner said Saturday that while some people started “going down” at 9:30 p.m., the show didn't end until about 10:10 p.m.
Police are conducting a criminal investigation with the involvement of the homicide and narcotics divisions, he added. Meanwhile, lawsuits against Scott and festival organizers started pouring in Sunday.
One lawsuit said: “Scott actively encourages his fans to ‘rage’ at his concerts. His express encouragement of violence has previously resulted in serious violence at numerous past concerts.”
Peña said Tuesday that there is no evidence that Scott had encouraged the crowd to get rowdy but that the investigation continues.
"I’m not prepared to say that he was fully aware of the — of what was going on," he said. "All I’m saying is that everybody at that event — from the artist on down, security, and everybody that’s there to provide public safety, including the crowds, right? — in general, we all have a responsibility when we attend these venues to ensure each other’s safety. We're a community at these events."
Peña said barricades meant to "prevent the surge towards the stage, in essence, caused other areas of pinch points, and as the crowd began to surge and push and compress towards the front, it was those people in the center that began to get crushed and the injuries start to begin."
Scott promised Monday to refund all concertgoers and to pay for the victims' funerals. Representatives for Scott also said he was “too distraught” to play the Day N Vegas Festival, which he had been scheduled to headline Saturday.
In an Instagram story over the weekend, Scott said: “I’m honestly just devastated. I could never imagine anything like this just happening.”