The contingency plans for the Astroworld music festival did not include logs for dangerous crowds like the one that unfolded during a rush on headliner Travis Scott that killed eight people and injured hundreds more, including a 9-year-old boy whose family said was in a coma.
The Houston concert area, where a crowd of fans thronged to the front during the rapper’s performance on Friday night, remains largely intact as authorities continue the criminal investigation. More than 20 lawsuits have been filed accusing organizers of simple crowd control measures or improper use of staff.
The Houston Police, along with the fire department, played a key security role at the sold-out show, which drew 50,000 people. The Houston Fire Department union chief pushed back Tuesday, saying the firefighters were not present within the festival and had not been given radios to communicate directly with organizers.
Hundreds of people were treated with injuries on site and at least 13 were hospitalized. They included a 9-year-old boy who attended the festival with his father but was reportedly separated from family members when the crowd was dangerously crowded.
Bernon Blount said his grandson Ezra was in a medically induced coma in a Houston hospital on Tuesday and that the boy’s heart, lungs and brain were injured in the hand-to-hand combat.
“My son passed out and Ezra fell into the crowd,” Blount told The Associated Press. “When my son woke up, Ezra wasn’t there.”
A 56-page event plan for the Astroworld music festival contained logs for dangerous scenarios such as an active shooter, bomb or terrorist threats and severe weather. However, it did not contain any information on what to do in the event of a human attack.
“In any situation where large groups of people congregate, there is the potential for civil unrest that can pose a serious risk to the safety of staff and guests,” the plan says. âThe key to properly dealing with this type of scenario is properly managing the crowd from the moment the doors open. Crowd management techniques are used to identify potentially dangerous behavior by people in its early stages in order to prevent civil unrest / riots. “
Experts say that crowd deaths occur because people are so tightly packed that they are squeezed together and cannot get oxygen. It’s usually not because they’re trampled on.
Authorities said part of their investigation will include verifying that the concert promoter and others behind the festival have adhered to the plans presented.
Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, said firefighters asked festival organizers for a radio so they could be in direct contact with one another. Lancton said firefighters were given a list of cell phone numbers to call in an emergency.
âWe don’t use cell phones for emergencies. We use radios. We need direct contact because when situations develop, seconds count, âsaid Lancton.
He said a group of four firefighters would be stationed in a mobile command vehicle in a nearby parking lot starting Friday at 7 a.m. Without direct communication with the festival organizers, the firefighters in the car monitored six different radio frequencies to keep an eye on what was happening, he said.
The festival organizers had signed a contract with ParaDocs from New York to handle all medical services during the festival. A 22-page plan the company presented to local officials ahead of the festival said it estimated 70,000 visitors – more than the actual concert attendance – and planned to staff more than 80 emergency medics, doctors, nurses and supervisors on a daily basis.
ParaDocs said in a statement Tuesday that the company was “with a trained team of medical professionals and EMT prepared for the size of the venue and the expected audience,” and is cooperating with investigators.
Houston Police and Fire Department investigators have said they are reviewing surveillance videos from concert promoter Live Nation, as well as dozen of clips of people on the show that were widely shared on social media.
Scott, who founded the Astroworld Festival, said he would pay the funeral expenses for the victims. The dead were between 14 and 27 years old and, according to Harris County authorities, came from the states of Texas, Illinois and Washington. These included high school students, an aspiring border guard and a computer science student.
Astroworld incident operations and emergency logs filed with Harris County and obtained by the AP state: âThe potential for multiple alcohol / drug-related incidents, potential evacuation needs and the ubiquitous threat of a mass casualty situation are identified as major concerns. â
The festival took place in a parking lot that is part of NRG Park, a complex that consists of stadiums, an arena and a convention center.
Lawyers representing those injured or killed during the festival were given access to the venue on Tuesday to inspect and photograph the grounds. Ryan MacLeod, who represents several people injured during the concert, said the area around Scott where Scott had his concert did not seem to have a place for people once they walked in.
Similar disasters at concerts, sporting and religious events have a long history. In 1979, 11 people were killed when thousands of fans tried to break into the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati to see a concert by The Who. Other mass disasters include the deaths of 97 people in a football game at Hillsborough Stadium in 1989 in Sheffield, England, and numerous disasters related to the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.