Remembering Astroworld Festival

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 Jamaal Ellis/Houston Chronicle via AP
Concert goers push and squeeze their way towards the stage

By Trianne Hontiveros
Published December 20, 2021

A month has passed since the tragedy of Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival occurred in Houston, Texas. It was reported that 10 people died, with the deceased ages ranging between 14-27. Travis Scott’s performance only lasted a little over an hour and yet the stampede left concertgoers asphyxiated, hospitalized, and traumatized. Families and friends of the victims are still grieving their losses, desperately trying to get answers and press charges against those responsible. This event, though tragic, shines a light on the importance of prioritizing public safety. 

 

There were many factors that led to the crowd’s deadly stampede. For starters, the venue, because it was outdoors, had virtually no capacity limit. Though it was reported by officials that nearly 50,000 fans attended the concert, it did not prevent the crowd from surging in the venue to the point where concertgoers, because of the immense pushing and squeezing to get closer to the stage, lead to many undergoing asphyxiation. A concertgoer recalls their time: "I fell backward and it felt like it was the end for me. To think that's how I'll die, I was so scared," Beltran told CNN. "I did not know what to do. It was all happening so fast, but so slow and I couldn't react. I just screamed."


Secondly, it was a problem of negligence and unpreparedness. There were inadequate forms of safety enforcement. Very little security to monitor safety especially when in fact it was a standing festival. Where anyone can just shove towards the stage in comparison to a seated festival where seats and sections prevent crowd surging. . While crowds desperately chanted “stop the show” no one stopped the show. Stage crew, managers, security, not even Scott himself stopped his performance. It even got to the point where attendee, Ayden Cruz (18)  climbed to the cameramen in desperation to stop the show screaming “I just got out of there. You don’t know what’s happening down there. There are kids in there.” Interestingly, even after Houston officials intervened and declared the festival as a “mass casualty event,” it still took 40 minutes to shut the entire event down.

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 @onacasella/Twitter/Reuters
EMS tries to go through crowd to get to people in need of medical attention

One of the major controversial aspects of the Astroworld festival lies with the concertgoers themselves. They took any and every opportunity to get closer to the stage. Even if it was at the expense of others’ lives. Despite seeing people who had clearly lost consciousness, Beltran said, people continued trampling those who were on the ground. "I was shocked to see people act so inconsiderate and feral. It was insane to see so many just run others over like wild animals," she said. "People did not care, they still tried to squeeze through just to get to the front without thinking of the consequences and who it would affect." From videos online to pictures, it is evident that almost everyone had barely any regard for the safety and wellbeing of the person next to them regardless of relationship. People were still being walked over, trampled, and crushed to death by others with no compassion or concern. 

Another of the major controversial aspects of the Astroworld festival that made this event even more tragic is  Travis Scott’s decision not to fully stop the show. In a previous concert he had, he ultimately stopped the show when a fan stole his shoe. He yelled at others to “beat him up” for taking his shoe. Yet he failed to do so when there are people being crushed to death. Screaming and begging to stop the show for the sake of their lives. There was a viral video of a person receiving CPR while Travis Scott was still performing in the background. Compared to other concerts, a group of 50,000 is nowhere near the masses of other concerts, yet those artists did not fail to bring attention to the safety of their attendees. 
 
According to a Crowd Safety expert, the tragedy was totally preventable. It was a “preventable, man-made tragedy”  Paul Wertheimer, head of the Los Angeles-based crowd safety consulting firm Crowd Management Strategies states. Though this isn’t the first time people tragically died due to crowd stampede, this should remind people of the dangers of large crowd gatherings and take extra personal precautions for their safety and the safety of others. Let this also be a reminder that for those in charge of large crowd gatherings such as music festivals, to make sure safety is their number one priority as someone can get easily lost in the crowd. 
 
Unfortunately, an individual’s safety is something that is often overlooked especially at large events such as concerts where there are tens of thousands attending. It should be noted that in reality, not every single person can be accounted for as the ratio of attendees to safety officers is never enough. Additionally, the question: “what could possibly happen?” tend to loom over attendees and therefore become too comfortable when in fact it is their own responsibility to make sure that their safety is their priority. Everyone should be accountable for their own safety and even the safety of others around them. One should know where the closest exits are, the steps they should take when evacuation is needed, and take personal precautions to avoid dehydration, getting lost in the crowd just to get closer to the stage, and simply reckless actions that are clearly not safe. Even though it is the safety officials’ job to make sure such tragedies would not happen, it is still not enough. It is in their best interest to take extra steps to assure the optimal safety one can be in.

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 Khou 11

Remembering the violent tragedy of the Astroworld festival is not enough. The names of the victims should still remain in mind when thinking and remembering the event. Just because there are only 10 names listed as dead should not shield the unknowing public away from the hundreds of attendees hospitalized, injured, and traumatized. These ten, young attendees died of compression asphyxia from the deadly crowd surge. Ezra Blount, John Hilgert, Brianna Rodriguez, Franco Patino, Axel Avila, Bharti Shahani, Madison Dubkiski, Rudy Peña, Danish Baig, and the hundreds that unfortunately suffered should not have suffered. Public safety is real and is important.

“Astroworld Festival Attendees Recall Moments of the Event Saying It Was 'a Fight for Survival'.” KDRV News, https://www.kdrv.com/content/news/Astroworld-Festival-attendees-recall--575692901.html.

Rachel DeSantis,   Wendy Grossman Kantor and KC Baker November 09. “Crowd Safety Experts Explain Why Astroworld Tragedy Was 'Preventable' - and How You Can Stay Safe.” PEOPLE.com, https://people.com/music/crowd-safety-experts-explain-why-astroworld-tragedy-was-preventable-how-you-can-stay-safe/.

Sisario, Ben. “Astroworld Disaster Rekindles Fears about Music Festival Safety.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Nov. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/12/arts/music/astroworld-travis-scott-concert-safety.html.

Spencer, Bill. “18-Year-Old Astroworld Concertgoer Caught on Video Trying to Stop Show after Getting Caught in Crowd Surge.” KPRC, KPRC Click2Houston, 10 Nov. 2021, https://www.click2houston.com/news/local/2021/11/10/18-year-old-astroworld-concertgoer-caught-on-video-trying-to-stop-show-after-getting-caught-in-crowd-surge/.