Panic and then desperation spread through the crowd of 50,000 mostly young people just as the popular hometown rapper they had come to see, Travis Scott, took the stage Friday night. It came like a wave, an unstoppable movement of bodies that could not be held back.
Some collapsed. Others fought for air. Concertgoers lifted up the unconscious bodies of friends and strangers and surfed them over the top of the crowd, hoping to send them to safety. Others shouted out for help with CPR and pleaded for the concert to stop.
It kept going.
In the end, eight people died, ranging in age from 14 to 27, according to city officials. Hundreds more were treated for injuries at a field hospital at the concert venue, the NRG Park in Houston, or at local hospitals. Among those treated at a hospital was a 10-year-old child.
By Saturday, officials in Houston were at a loss to explain how the concert, part of the two-day Astroworld music festival organized by Live Nation and Mr. Scott, had transformed in an instant from a celebration to a struggle for life. So too were those who had been at the outdoor concert, who described a thrust of the crowd that would not let up as Mr. Scott took the stage around 9 p.m.
“It was like hell,” said Nick Johnson, 17, who still had his concert bracelet on as he spoke on Saturday morning. “Everybody was just in the back, trying to rush to the front.”
“People were literally grabbing and pinching at my body trying to get up from the ground,” said Chris Leigh, 23, adding that he lost contact with his friends as he tried to make it out of the crowd. “I was fighting for my life; there was no way out.”
The event appeared to be one of the deadliest crowd-control disasters at a concert in the United States in many years. Similar episodes have occurred at venues around the world, during performances of all genres of music, including an electronic dance music festival in Germany in 2010 at which 18 people were trapped and crushed, and a 1979 Who concert in Cincinnati where 11 people died as concertgoers rushed the entrance.
But the deaths in Houston had a particularly devastating impact at a time when the rapture of live events was being felt following months of pandemic restrictions.
“Young people with bright futures — those were the people who were at the event,” said Lina Hidalgo, the top executive for Harris County, which includes Houston.
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