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A timeline of the AstroWorld tragedy

Good reporting about a terrible event.

For 37 minutes after Houston police and firefighters responded to a “mass casualty” event at a packed Astroworld rap concert where attendees were crushed against the stage Friday evening, Travis Scott continued performing.

Police officials said the promoter, Live Nation, agreed to cut the show shortly after multiple people collapsed at 9:38 p.m. But concert attendees said Scott appeared to play his whole set and finished at 10:15 p.m. Concert staff ignored pleas from fans to halt the show, including some who climbed onto camera platforms to point out others who had collapsed and needed medical attention.

A review of videos and social media posts that documented one of the deadliest concerts in U.S. history raises questions about the official timeline of events put forth by local officials, the swiftness of their response and their ability to communicate effectively with concert promoters during the disaster.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said he had enough officers onsite to handle the crowd of 50,000. But he also said he could not have abruptly ended the show for fear of sparking a riot his department could not control.

The delay restricted the movement of first responders, who were still transporting limp bodies when Scott finished his final song, “Goosebumps.”

Eight people died, including 14- and 16-year-old high school students. Scores were injured.

[…]

Two veteran concert promoters of major shows — one with experience in Texas — said the plans and procedures between promoters, showrunners and local officials outline exactly how to pull the plug on a show. Neither would comment publicly because Live Nation, the company that managed Astroworld, is a dominant force in entertainment booking.

Often, a performer with a high-energy and complex performance such as Scott’s would have a direct line to a producer or stage manager via an earpiece. The producer/manager would be in constant contact and have the ability at practically any time to tell a performer what is going on and that a show is being abruptly halted.

Cancellation can come from various people along the process, ranging from the artists themselves to promoters and police. Stage crews can, in a matter of seconds if necessary, turn off all power to the stage and broadcast safety and security messages on video boards and over the audio system.

Live Nation did not use the PA system or video boards to broadcast any safety messages Friday evening, attendees said.

The procedures are especially common when promoters hold outdoor shows. Free Press Summer Fest, held across multiple stages and at multiple venues in the Houston area over the past decade, canceled and restarted performances in a matter of minutes as rain moved into the area in 2015 and 2016.

See here for some background, and read on for that timeline, which was put together with the help of eyewitness accounts and their social media posts. There are a lot of questions to be answered about whether security was adequate and what happened with communications, and it’s important that we figure that out and make the answers public. And then, as needed, seek accountability.

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3 Comments

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    this must be second only to The Who stampede in Cincinnati, which resulted in 11 deaths and unknown number of injuries. I had recently seen a video of the band visiting the area and helping to fund a charity, this was in 2019, for the 40th anniversary of the event.

    I can’t tell from the story but it sounds like the crush was caused by the same “festival” or unassigned seating that happened at The Who show way back then. As fans rushed for the best spots, some were knocked down and trampled, crowds were packed together, and people at the back couldn’t see what was happening in the front. Many cities banned general admission concert seating after 1979, but then, they gradually started allowing it again, to attract bigger names and festivals.

  2. Ross says:

    Jason, there was no seating at Astroworld Fest, except maybe in the VIP section. According to my sources(various teenagers), no self respecting fan would be sitting during an event like this.

  3. Jason Hochman says:

    The standing room only model does allow them to pack in more people than assigned seating. I’m just speculating but wouldn’t it be safer to do standing room only and still have assigned sections. Seems to me that if only a small subset of the ticket holders can be front and center, it would be a lot safer. In other words, as an example, only 400 people in that space rather than 10,000 should be safer.