Firefighter logs from the event tell the story of early chaos and continued problems.
Houston firefighters arrived at a small command post parked on the far-flung Orange Lot, about a mile from the festival grounds. They spent the day listening to radio dispatches from some of the hundreds of Houston police officers inside and outside the park, or using cellphones to call the concert organizers’ privately hired medical providers. They added notable updates to the 11-page log.
After the early breach of the entry, firefighters wrote just after 10 a.m.: “Venue fences damaged. No control of participants.”
In the initial rush on the gates, four concertgoers were injured, the logs show. Revved-up concertgoers would rush gates at least nine other times Friday, fire officials wrote.
At about 11 a.m. Friday, firefighters noted that a crowd of about 100 people were headed toward the Fiesta. Eighteen minutes later, they noted another 200 people approaching the park’s Gate 10.
“Participants are now dismantling barricades,” firefighters wrote.
Shortly after 5 p.m., the place was already about two-thirds full, according to the logs. The number of concert crashers appears to have grown significantly as well, with one entry showing that officials estimated as many as 5,000 people had not been scanned entering the park.
Police continued to respond to calls of people pushing down fencing at 5:50 p.m. and an hour later. They reported a “mob” at Main Street at 7:15 p.m., and a crowd of some 250 people rushing a pedestrian bridge nine minutes later.
Half an hour later, police had another 13 people in custody.
At 8 p.m., they reported a Houston police officer suffering from a hand injury;
By 9 p.m. — about the time that Travis Scott began performing — the crowd at NRG park had grown to 55,000, according to the logs.
As the concert progressed, hundreds of festivalgoers continued to pour over fencing.
But if the security breaches were the first signs of trouble, the most significant signs of danger began to appear shortly after 9:15 p.m.
“Individual with crush injury, breathing difficulty,” firefighters noted, at 9:18 p.m. “(ParaDocs) en route.”
“This is when it all got real,” they wrote, at 9:28 p.m.
There’s more if you want to keep reading. I suspect we’re going to learn a lot from these logs, and from what the firefighters who wrote them have to say about it now.
Another source of information about this disaster will be all the litigation.
Attorneys representing more than 200 people claiming they were injured in last week’s Astroworld Festival stampede in Houston said on Friday that they are filing another 90 lawsuits against the promoters of the event in which at least nine people died.
The announcement marked the latest legal action to follow last Friday’s concert by Grammy Award-nominated rapper Travis Scott before a crowd of 50,000 at NRG Stadium that got out of control when fans surged toward the stage.
“We represent more than 200 victims who were injured mentally, physically and psychologically at the Astroworld Festival,” civil rights Attorney Ben Crump announced at a news conference in Houston.
At least 50 other suits have been brought against producer Live Nation Entertainment Inc and Scott over the deaths and injuries related to the Astroworld Festival that was intended to signal the resurgence of Scott’s hometown.
A ninth person succumbed to her injuries on Wednesday, raising the death toll to nine. It occurs to me that the families of the deceased have not yet filed any lawsuits. I have to imagine those will come later. We will be re-living this experience for a long time.
And in the end, I hope we learn from this terrible experience.
The Danish city of Roskilde shares little with Houston other than a proximity to a waterway and a music festival tragedy in which nine people died.
The Roskilde Festival, which typically draws more than twice as many music fans as the town’s population of around 50,000, made only celebratory news until its 30th year, when nine fans were crushed in a mosh pit during a Pearl Jam performance there on June 30, 2000.
One year later, the festival returned with Bob Dylan headlining.
Carlos Chirinos, a music and global health professor at New York University, studies music-related crowds and behaviors. He worked with Roskilde Festival organizers in 2005.
“I was impressed with how they stepped up security in the pit,” he said. “I had an opportunity to be close with security and saw how closely they worked with stage management. They tried to achieve total control.
“And they haven’t had any incidents since then.”
In the meantime, experts say large-scale changes to how the music industry conducts its events are unlikely to take place. Those advocating for the end of general-admission music festivals with tens of thousands of concert-goers may get a short-term reprieve: the festival season largely hibernates for the winter.
But by next spring and summer, music festivals will likely return in full fervor.
“It’s not cynical, but just an observation, that some of the most heartbreaking tragedies at mass gatherings in the United States have not yielded a lot of change,” said Steve Adelman, vice president of the Event Safety Alliance. The non-profit organization was formed following a 2011 concert event that was to feature the band Sugarland at the Indiana State Fair. Severe winds knocked down supports for a temporary roof, killing seven fans and injuring dozens of others.
“What are the likely long-term changes after the tragedy at Astroworld? You can find people asking if it will be the end of GA shows, and commenters saying that will happen. I don’t think that’s likely at all,” Adelman said. “If for no other reason than the economic model for the music industry has changed. No one is selling records. So the industry sells live music, food, beverages and merchandise. That’s just the model. It’s economics.”
Of course, those that organize and promote these events have to be able to get insurance for them. The lawsuits may make that more difficult for them, or at least force them to make some changes. But yeah, it’s probably best not to bet on anything truly game-changing. Attend at your own risk, hopefully with the knowledge of what can go wrong.