Astroworld 2021: what happened at Travis Scott's Houston music festival?

Ezra Blount, the 9-year-old boy who was injured at the festival, has died

Travis Scott performs at Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on November 5, 2021, in Houston, Texas. AP
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Travis Scott's Astroworld Festival was the site of a deadly crowd crush on November 5, killing 10 people, the youngest being Ezra Blount, who had been in a medically induced coma from injuries sustained at the event. More than 300 people were treated for injuries.

The event takes place annually at NRG Park in Houston, Texas. It is run by Scott, the Houston rapper and partner of Kylie Jenner, and is named after his 2018 album of the same name.

Including Ezra, the names of those who died have been confirmed as John Hilgert, 14; Brianna Rodriguez, 16; Jacob Jurinek, 21; Franco Patino, 21; Axel Acosta, 21; Bharti Shahani, 22; Rudy Pena, 23; Madison Dubiski, 23; and Danish Baig, 27.

The death toll rose to nine nearly a week after the concert took place after Shahani died from "horrific injuries" sustained at the rap concert, a lawyer for the family said. Astroworld was the first concert she ever attended.

What caused the crowd surge at Astroworld?

The Astroworld crowd was made up of more than 50,000 people. Authorities confirmed that the tragedy struck on Friday, November 5 after a “crowd surge”, which forced organisers to stop the show. It was declared a “mass casualty incident” on the night.

A photo from the Astroworld crowd taken on November 5, 2021. Instagram @drainstarr via Reuters

Earlier in the day, attendees rushed one of the entrances to the NRG Park grounds. Video footage shows crowds of festival-goers bypassing security, rushing into the venue, hopping turnstiles and knocking down security barriers. It is thought that much of the crowd entered the grounds without tickets.

“Travis Scott himself did stop the show several times to point out people near the front who were in distress or needed help and he would get security to come and help them,” Joey Guerra, a Houston music critic told BBC Radio 5. “I don’t think he was aware of the extent of what was going on.”

Houston's fire chief Samuel Pena said, “The crowd began to compress towards the front of the stage, and that caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries.

“People began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created additional panic.”

Ezra Blount, 9, dies from his injuries

Ezra became the 10th fatality of the Astroworld Festival crowd surge on Sunday, November 14.

He attended the festival with his father, Treston Blount, and was sat on his shoulders when the crowd surge began. Treston passed out from the pressure of the crowd, while Ezra fell from his shoulders and was trampled on.

When Treston came to, Ezra had already been taken to hospital where he spent his final days in a medically-induced coma. Doctors believed Ezra went into cardiac arrest at the festival.

Treston wrote of the tragedy on his GoFundMe page, which had raised $79,362 of a $200,000 goal at the time of writing.

"I had my son on my shoulders awaiting Drake's stage appearance I began to be crushed until I couldn’t breathe I passed out. [When] I woke up and my son was gone and due to his severe injuries which are swelling in the back of brain damage and trauma to nearly all organs," Treston wrote. "We are certain that he was trampled."

Ezra's death was announced on Sunday night by Houston mayor, Sylvester Turner.

“Our city tonight prays for his mum, dad, grandparents, other family members and classmates at this time,” Turner wrote on Twitter. “They will need all of our support in the months and years to come. May God give them strength.”

Travis Scott and Drake sued: 'They performed while the crowd mayhem continued'

At least two lawsuits have been filed by Astroworld attendees, suing Scott and the organisers Live Nation.

The first, by attendee Manuel Souza, described the tragedy as "predictable and preventable" in a petition filed on Saturday at Harris County District Court.

Astroworld performers and organisers decided to put profits over their attendees and allowed the deadly show to go on
Thomas J Henry, lawyer

“Defendants failed to properly plan and conduct the concert in a safe manner,” Souza’s lawyer, Steve Kherkher, said. “Instead, they consciously ignored the extreme risks of harm to concertgoers, and, in some cases, actively encouraged and fomented dangerous behaviours.”

Souza is seeking at least $1 million in damages and in addition to Live Nation, also names organiser ScoreMore and Scott's Cactus Jack Records, among others.

A second lawsuit has been filed by attendee Kristian Paredes, 23, who names Scott and Live Nation, as well as Drake and Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation​​​​​​​.

Paredes's lawyer, Thomas J Henry, says that Paredes was pushed into the show’s general admission metal barrier and has suffered permanent bodily injury. He is also seeking $1 million.

“There is every indication that the performers, organisers and venue were not only aware of the hectic crowd but also that injuries and potential deaths may have occurred,” says Henry in documents obtained by The Daily Mail. “Still, they decided to put profits over their attendees and allowed the deadly show to go on.”

In Paredes's complaint, he describes Canadian rapper Drake as coming "on stage alongside Travis Scott" and helping "incite the crowd".

He says that the two continued to perform "while the crowd mayhem continued".

Travis Scott reacts to Astroworld tragedy: 'I’m absolutely devastated'

Scott, 30, released a statement on Instagram on Saturday, describing himself as "absolutely devastated by what took place”.

“My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival,” Scott wrote.

“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. Thank you to Houston PD, Fire Department and NRG Park for their immediate response and support.”

The rapper, born Jacques Bermon Webster II, is the partner of reality TV star and beauty entrepreneur Jenner, 24. The couple are parents to daughter, Stormi Webster, 3, and Jenner is currently pregnant with their second child. Jenner was in attendance at Astroworld with her sister, Kendall, 26.

Kardashian-Jenners share 'shock' over deaths

Kim Kardashian West said her family is "in shock" in a statement released on Twitter and Instagram.

She posted on behalf of herself and her family, since Scott is in a long-term relationship with Kardashian West's sister, Kylie Jenner.

Kendall Jenner was also at the concert.

Kendall also shared a statement on the tragedy, writing on Instagram: "I'm still at a loss for words over the news from Astroworld. I'm truly broken for the families that have lost loved ones and my prayers go out to everyone involved.

"Sending everyone who has been affected all of my love and wishing them strength during this incredibly devastating and sensitive time."

Earlier, Kylie said that she and Scott did not know what was happening in the crowd during the performance.

Travis Scott to pay for Astroworld victims' funeral costs

Scott has pledged to cover the funeral costs of the eight victims of the Astroworld Festival crowd surge. He has also promised to partner with counselling and therapy service BetterHelp to provide free mental health services to all those affected by the tragedy, a representative for the rapper has said.

"Travis remains in active conversations with the city of Houston, law enforcement and local first responders to respectfully and appropriately connect with the individuals and families of those involved," says the rapper's representative.

"These are the first of many steps Travis plans on taking as a part of his personal vow to assist those affected throughout their grieving and recovery process."

Calls for an independent investigation

Experts in crowd safety say an investigation by neutral outsiders into the tragedy could help the city avoid potential conflicts of interest and promote transparency.

Houston Police Department spokeswoman Jodi Silva declined to comment on whether the department’s close involvement in the event created a conflict or if it was considering handing the probe off to an outside agency. Such decisions are often made in investigations like police shootings.

“All of the information we have available to put out at this time has been placed out on Twitter,” Ms Silva said.

The police department’s probe would be separate from any independent investigation ordered by County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Harris County’s top elected official, said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for the county judge’s office.

Mr Hidalgo has not decided who would conduct such an independent review or how it would be done, Mr Lemaitre said on Monday.

History of Astroworld

A street sign showing the cancellation of the Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on November 6, 2021, in Houston, Texas. AFP

The festival was started in 2018, with a line-up that included Post Malone, Lil Wayne, Young Thug and Virgil Abloh. It was launched to “bring back the beloved spirit and nostalgia of Astroworld, making a childhood dream of Travis’ come true.“

NRG Park is the former site of the Houston theme park Six Flags AstroWorld. The attraction, which inspired the name of Scott's festival and album, closed in 2005.

The festival grew in 2019, with a line-up that included Migos, Pharrell Williams, Marilyn Manson, Gucci Mane, DaBaby and Megan Thee Stallion, with a surprise guest performance from Kanye West.

In 2020, the event was cancelled owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it returned this year with a two-day event scheduled for November 5 and 6. The second day was cancelled after tragedy struck on day one.

This year, Tame Impala, 21 Savage, Lil Baby, Chief Keef and Master P were on the line-up. There was a surprise guest performance from Drake during Scott's set.

The two-day event had a combined capacity of 100,000 and tickets sold out in less than 30 minutes when they went on sale in May.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: November 16, 2021, 6:24 AM