Travis Scott has a reputation for high intensity gigs – where attendees are encouraged to “rage” – that land him in hot water with the law but organisers were still tragically unprepared.

Around 50,000 people were in attendance at the Astroworld festival in Houston's NRG Park when the crowd started pushing toward the stage as rapper Travis Scott was performing. 

The crush left eight people dead – ranging in age from 14 to 27 – and hundreds injured.

Survivors of the incident described chaotic scenes of people squeezed up against one another, with many struggling to breathe. Some attendees said they experienced pain in their chests when taking deep breaths the day after the incident. 

“The second that Travis Scott said ‘lets go’ we were rushed forward by people in the back of the crowd and we were suddenly pinned,” user @dariancooks said in a Tiktok video. 

“Couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe. It was terrifying.”

“Within the first seconds of the first song, people began to drown – in other people,” Instagram user Seanna Faith McCarty, a 21-year-old festival attendee, wrote. “The rush of people became tighter and tighter.”

She observed festival-goers passing out around her and looked for help, climbing a ladder from the pit onto a platform and telling a cameraman “people are dying” and being told to get off the platform. Another man grabbed her arm and told her he would push her “off the 15 feet platform if she did not get down,” the post said. 

Footage of the incident went viral on social media. 

Another video circulating on social media shows Scott briefly stopping the music to alert security to an attendee that seemed like they were passing out before reverting to harmonising through autotune and carrying on with the show. 

Around 9:30 pm an ambulance slowly began making its way through the crowd, to which Scott briefly halted the performance. Two people approached Scott on stage before being dismissed with an “All that, all that” and saying“Y’all know what you came to do”. The concert started up again. At 9:39 pm, Houston police had declared a mass casualty event.

Scott ended his set at around 10:15 pm, 37 minutes after police had first flagged casualties. 

READ MORE: Investigations widen into deadly crowd crush at Astroworld in Texas

Overwhelmed medics

Medical personnel were woefully unprepared for the casualties at the event, according to concert goers and video footage shows. 

A medical plan prepared by ParaDocs outlined “a main medical tent with two emergency room physicians, six registered nurses, two paramedics and nine emergency medical technicians” would be necessary. The 300 or more people in need of medical care overwhelmed that system before Scott began performing, the New York Times reported

Max Morbidelli, a 24-year-old paramedic, told the LA Times that he started doing CPR on a woman who was passed out at the concert amid an “unimaginably chaotic” and “overwhelming” scene. Two medical staff approached him at the concert with only a backboard and no other equipment. One attempted to carry compressions but Morbidelli said “it was very obvious that he was inexperienced at CPR. He was doing it very shallow and way too fast. One of the bystanders even told him to slow down.”

Morbideli had to take over doing CPR again, asking for the backboard to remove the woman from the pit but finding out it had no straps. A group of officers attempted to lift the woman on the board over the barricade.

“They balanced her on the barricade. But there was some miscommunication between the people at the head of the backboard and the people at the feet of the board, and the patient fell,” Morbidelli said. 

“I watched her fall and hit the ground. I just fell to my knees and started crying.”

Footage on social media appears to show the incident. The woman in the video was later identified as a 22-year-old Texas A&M senior who is in critical condition at Houston Methodist Hospital, ABC 13 says.

Red flags

There is a long history of similar incidents at concerts, sporting and religious events. In 1979, 11 people were killed as thousands of fans tried to get into Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum to see The Who play live. Live music’s deadliest concert in recent history was when a fire broke out at the Station nightclub in 2003 in Rhode Island, killing 100 people and injuring some 200. In 2000, nine people were trampled to death in a mosh pit during Pearl Jam's performance at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark.

Scott is no stranger to courting controversy with his gigs, racking up a reputation for high intensity events that have gotten him into trouble with the law on several occasions, frequently urging his fans to bypass security and rush the stage. 

According to Editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone Noah Shachtman, the artist has “a history of violent” concerts. “The warning signs on this one go way way back, unfortunately,” he told CNN.

At the Lollapalooza festival in 2015, video shows Scott urging attendees to “rage”, jump barricades and rush the stage. His set was barely three songs in before the set was shut down after which he was arrested for disorderly conduct and pled guilty. 

In April 2017, 27-year-old Kyle Green filed a lawsuit against the rapper after attending Scott’s concert at Terminal five in Manhattan where he was allegedly pushed from a third floor balcony, resulting in paralysis. During the same event, another fan willingly jumped from a second floor balcony after being egged on by Scott. “I see you, but are you gonna do it?” Scott said. 

Three people were injured during Scott’s set at the Astroworld festival in 2019 when concert goers rushed security barricades. Houston Police, in a now-deleted tweet, said that the event was understaffed and "promoters did not plan sufficiently for the large crowds”. 

In May, Scott wrote in a now-deleted tweet “"NAW AND WE STILL SNEAKING THE WILD ONES IN!!!!"

Footage from shortly before the festival began shows people vaulting security barricades and rushing into the concert pit. 

Houston's police chief Troy Finner said he had met briefly with Scott to voice his "public safety concerns" before the rapper took to the stage. Even concert organisers knew that the crowd would be difficult to control, given Scott’s Astroworld concert in 2019, adding more police officers and private security in the months leading up the festival.

Emergency plans obtained by the New York Times show preparations that organisers prepared for “the potential for multiple alcohol/drug related incidents, possible evacuation needs, and the ever-present threat of a mass casualty situation” but not for suffocation and crowd crushes.

Litigation, litigation, litigation

More than a dozen lawsuits from victims and their families have already been filed against several defendants, including Scott and concert promoters Live Nation Entertainment Inc and ScoreMore.

The lawsuits accuse Live Nation of acting negligently by failing to create and enforce sufficient safety protocols, failing to provide adequate security and failing to maintain proper crowd control.

According to CJ Baker, a Texas injury attorney, to successfully argue negligence, the” plaintiffs must show that the defendants knew or should have known that there were actions they could have taken to prevent a foreseeable tragedy”.

Scott’s previous behaviour at concerts could help plaintiffs build a case against him, Richard Mithoff, a Houston personal injury attorney, told Reuters. 

"You have to know at some point that if you keep pushing it, this is the kind of tragedy that will result," Mithoff said.

Houston police have opened a criminal investigation into the incident, and have said they will examine whether security plans were flawed or followed improperly.

That could hinge on whether or not Scott or the organisers stepped in to stop the concert once they knew people were becoming injured or killed, Baker said. Texas state’s penal code says reckless behaviour that causes someone’s death is considered manslaughter. 

Scott and his partner Kylie Jenner have maintained that they did not know what was happening until after the show. Footage uploaded to Jenner’s Instagram story and deleted the next morning shows an ambulance moving through the crowd. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies