At least eight people were killed and dozens more were injured at a concert in Houston after a large crowd began pushing toward the front of the stage during a performance by the hometown rapper Travis Scott.
The concert was part of the Astroworld music festival, a two-day event that began on Friday. About 50,000 people were assembled there on Friday night when the injuries occurred, according to the Houston Fire Department.
It appeared to be one of the deadliest crowd-control disasters at a concert in the United States in many years, recalling the 1979 crush outside the doors of a show by the Who in Cincinnati that left 11 people dead and stunned the nation.
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The cause of the surge remains under investigation.
It was still unclear what prompted the crowd to surge forward, but witnesses described a chaotic scene before and during the concert, with many people in the back trying to rush to the front. One concertgoer, Neema Djavadzadeh, said the event was “hectic from the beginning.”
“I got there around 3 and saw people already struggling to stand straight,” she said. “There was a lot of mob mentality going on, people willing to do whatever to be in line for merch, food, shows, you name it. A lot of fights broke out throughout the day.”
The crush of the crowd was so intense that it left no room to move, some attendees said.
“You can literally jump in the air and you’re there in the air — it’s like if your hands are up, your hands are staying up,” Vanessa Johnson, 20, said.
The signs of trouble were not immediately apparent.
Videos posted by concertgoers on social media showed a chaotic scene near the stage, with some people in the crowd pleading for help and others unaware of any serious problems.
In one video, which was posted on YouTube but had since been removed, Mr. Scott was onstage and heard telling the crowd: “I want to see some rages. Who want to rage?” Moments later, he could be heard saying, “There’s an ambulance in the crowd, whoa, whoa, whoa,” apparently trying to calm the commotion.
For several seconds, there was no music. Mr. Scott looked toward the crowd and the red and blue lights of an ambulance could be seen amid the sea of people.
Then, Mr. Scott said, “If everybody good, put a middle finger up in the sky.” As the music resumed, Mr. Scott urged the crowd to make the “ground shake.”
The concert continued for about another 30 minutes, then ended with Mr. Scott waving to the crowd and jogging offstage as he said: “I love y’all. Make it home safe. Good night!”
Was security adequate?
The city’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said it was too early to say whether the security operation was adequate or what led to the deaths.
The mayor, who has known Mr. Scott’s family for years, described a robust security operation.
“We had more security over there than we had at the World Series games,” he said, noting that the event took place on county property, with security organized by the city of Houston.
There were 505 event security staff members, 91 armed private security officers and 76 officers from the Houston Police Department at the event, officials said at a news conference.
The authorities elected not to shut down the concert too quickly.
Live Nation, the concert organizer, stopped the concert roughly 30 minutes earlier than planned, around 10:10 p.m. — 40 minutes after city officials said the “mass casualty event” had begun.
The Houston police chief, Troy Finner, said that officials worried that ending the concert quickly could make the situation worse.
“You cannot just close when you got 50,000 and over 50,000 individuals,” he said. “We have to worry about rioting, riots, when you have a group that’s that young.”
The victims were young.
The crowd was young, with the ages of the dead ranging from 14 to 27, according to the mayor’s office. One of the injured included a 10-year-old child who had been taken to a hospital, the mayor said.
The names of the victims had not been released as of Saturday night, but Lina Hidalgo, the chief executive of Harris County, mourned their loss: “When we read these ages — 14, 16, 21, 21, 23, 23, 27 — it just breaks your heart,” she said.
Travis Scott’s concerts are known for their chaotic energy.
Since emerging from Houston in the early 2010s, Mr. Scott has become one of rap’s most ambitious figures, pushing the boundaries of entrepreneurship and of the artist’s role as a purveyor of branded products and fan events.
The Astroworld music festival, now in its third iteration, is named after his 2018 album “Astroworld,” which drew debate in the music industry over Mr. Scott’s extensive use of retail bundles, using various merchandise items — sweaters, T-shirts, ashtrays and more — to help drive sales of the album and boost its position on the Billboard chart.
Mr. Scott has also earned a reputation for concerts that feature high-concept stage production as well as wild, chaotic energy from his audience.
In 2015, Mr. Scott pleaded guilty to charges of reckless conduct after he encouraged fans at Lollapalooza in Chicago to climb over security barricades and onto the stage. Two years later, Mr. Scott was sued by a fan who said he had become paralyzed after being pushed from a third-story balcony and dragged onstage while the rapper performed in Manhattan.
“I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night,” Mr. Scott said in a statement posted on Twitter, “My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival.” He said was offering his “total support” to the Houston Police Department in its investigation.
The entertainer also posted a video story to his Instagram account. “I’m honestly just devastated, and I could never imagine anything like this just happening,” Mr. Scott said, rubbing his forehead in a distraught manner. “I’m going to do everything I can to keep you guys updated and just keep you guys informed of what’s going on. Love you all.”
Reporting was contributed by J. David Goodman, Edgar Sandoval, Maria Jimenez Moya, Eduardo Medina, Azi Paybarah and Aina J. Khan.