When the return of Astroworld was announced earlier this year the 100,000 tickets available sold out within minutes. Friday night, all that enthusiasm turned tragic as the surge of fans rushing to see Travis Scott perform shortly after 9:30 p.m. resulted in eight reported deaths and multiple crowd injuries.
Day One shut down early and Day Two, which was to take place today, has been canceled. Investigators are still trying to determine exactly what happened although Assistant Police Chief Larry Satterwhite said, as reported on ABC-13 News that "Suddenly we had several people down on the ground experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode."
The late night surge followed an earlier one around 2 p.m. in the day when the gates opened and a number of what was thought to be concert goers without tickets hopped fences and broke through security and onto the grounds. While people were knocked down in that rush, no significant injuries or deaths were reported. Viral video soon surfaced of that first rush.
Fans had broken through the perimeter defenses in earlier iterations of the festival, but even the expanded Astroworld security team and beefed up police presence Friday was no match for people determined to join the thousands of concert-goers for the event that drew in ticket-buyers from around the country.
There were points where Scott stopped the show, pointed for security or ambulance to move toward an area, and then continued but he seemed to be just as confused as anyone else as to what was happening. In fact, depending on where you were at the festival, you could have missed entirely the injuries and deaths. The concert continued even as medics were working on people on the ground in the crowd.
The Travis Scott team posted the following message to Instagram early this morning:
"Our hearts are with the Astroworld Festival family tonight – especially those we lost and their loved ones. We are focused on supporting local officials however we can. With that in mind, the festival will no longer be held on Saturday. As authorities mentioned in their press conference earlier, they are looking into the series of cardiac arrests that took place. If you have any relevant information on this, please reach out to @HoustonPolice. Thank you to our partners at the Houston Police Department, Fire Department, and NRG Park for their response and support."
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo called it "Obviously an extremely tragic night. Our hearts are broken. People go to these events looking for a good time, a chance to unwind, to make memories."
Earlier Friday, everything and everyone was upbeat about another successful festival, which has morphed into a weeklong celebration in Houston capped off with a planned two-day festival featuring acts like Sza, Toro Y Moi, Lil Baby, Metro Boomin and Master P. And then there was the drop-in from Drake.
“Let me tell you something,” exhaled an almost out of breath Drake after performing in front of a sea of fans in NRG Park Friday night. “This is special. This doesn’t just happen. It takes creative mind to put all this together. It takes a special city to help this come together and it takes fans like you to make this come together.”
The creative mind he was speaking about, Travis Scott, stood beside him, center stage, in front of a three-story mountain filled with LCD screens. Travis walked forward toward the crowd as the intro to Sicko Mode blared through the speakers. Waves rippled through the sea of people as fans pushed towards the stage waiting for the beat to drop. Heat rushed to meet the audience as flames, steam, and fireworks shot into the night sky.
By Saturday morning, however, families were searching for relatives who'd been at the festival at a reunification center set up by police at the Wyndham Hotel at 610 and Kirby with some being redirected to area hospitals.
And at 8 a.m., AlertHouston sent out this message:
If you have not been able to contact your loved one who attended #ASTROWORLDFest please call 3-1-1 or 713-837-0311 or go to the reunification center at 8686 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77054.Update, 9:55 a.m.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued this statement:
"What happened at Astroworld Festival was a tragedy. An estimated 50,000 people attended the event Friday night, expecting to enjoy a music concert with friends and return home safely. I extend my condolences to the families of the eight people who died and the approximately 17 people who were injured at the event. Many of them suffered cardiac arrest.
"Immediately following the tragedy, the city began to assist with resources and necessary support. A reunification center is setup at 8686 Kirby Dr. for families to reconnect with loved ones who attend the event. Families searching for loved ones may also call 3-1-1.
"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.
"I have called for a detailed briefing from all stakeholders, including Live Nation, Harris County, NRG Park, Police, Fire, Office of Emergency Management, and other agencies, explaining how the event got out of control leading to the deaths and injuries of several attendees."And Gov. Abbott expressed his sympathies and offered state support:
"What happened at Astroworld Festival last night was tragic, and our hearts are with those who lost their lives and those who were injured in the terrifying crowd surge," said Governor Abbott. "Thank you to the first responders and good Samaritans who were on site and immediately tended to those who were injured in the crowd. The State of Texas is ready assist in the response, and I have directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to make state resources available to support the investigation. I ask Texans to join Cecilia and me in lifting up in prayer those affected by this tragedy."