Artist Travis Scott plans to cover all funeral costs for those who died at Houston’s Astroworld Festival, now considered one of the deadliest in U.S. concerts history.
Eight people are dead and many more injured after the crowd surged as headliner Scott performed Friday night. Scott launched his Astroworld Festival in 2018.
Scott’s representative released a statement about offering funeral cost coverage and mental health services for other concertgoers as lawsuits against him and concert organizers mount. “These are the first of many steps Travis plans on taking as a part of personal vow to assist those affected throughout their grieving and recovery process,” the statement reads.
The tragedy occurred despite what Houston Police Chief Troy Finner calls a “brief and respectful” meeting he had with Scott and the rapper’s head of security.
The meeting took place “last Friday prior to the main event,” the chief said in a statement issued Monday.
“I expressed my concerns regarding public safety,” Finner said. He added that “in my 31 years of law enforcement experience I have never seen a time with more challenges facing citizens of all ages, to include a global pandemic and social tension throughout the nation.”
“I asked Travis Scott and his team to work with HPD for all events over the weekend and to be mindful of his team’s social media messaging on any unscheduled events,” Finner said. “The meeting was brief and respectful, and a chance for me to share my public safety concerns as Chief of Police.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Saturday that, as far as he knew, the festival at NRG Park was the only time in about 40 years that such a large event in the city led to a loss of life.
There has been “nothing of this magnitude,” Turner said during a news conference.
The festival’s promoters say they’ve offered full refunds to anyone who purchased tickets, adding that they’ve set up “a health fund to help with costs for medical expenses.”
Astroworld Fest, live-events company Live Nation and concert organizer Scoremore also say they’ve given investigators all the footage from their surveillance cameras at the site.
Police caution that the investigation into what went wrong is still in its early stages.
Details have emerged about the moments before, during and after the show that highlight possible failures by the festival’s organizers to keep the crowd of about 50,000 under control.
Victims range in age from 14 to 27 years old
Authorities said they will officially release the names of the deceased later Monday, but family members have already begun confirming the identities of some of the victims.
Scott’s music appeals to a younger audience, and tragically, all of the victims were under age 30 and the youngest was just 14 years old.
Local reports say the youngest victim, John Hilgert, was a freshman at Memorial High School, according to ABC13.
“Our hearts go out to the student’s family and to his friends and our staff at Memorial,” MHS Principal Lisa Weir wrote in a letter to parents, according to the news station. “This is a terrible loss, and the entire MHS family is grieving today.”
Another young victim, Brianna Rodriguez, was 16 years old, her family told People magazine. Her family shared on its GoFundMe page that she loved to dance. “Dancing was her passion and now she’s dancing her way to heaven’s pearly gates,” the page reads.
Other victims include Axel Acosta, a 21-year-old computer science major at Western Washington University; Franco Patiño, a 21-year-old student at the University of Dayton in Ohio; Rudy Peña, a student at Laredo College; Jacob Jurinek, 20, a junior at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale; and 27-year-old Danish Baig.
GoFundMe launched a centralized hub identifying all verified fundraising pages created in response to the tragedy.
Authorities have not yet released specific causes of death of the victims. City officials and police cautioned the public not to rely on rumors spread online about possible causes.
More than a dozen other fans are still in the hospital. Police said 25 people were transported to a nearby hospital Friday night. As of Saturday afternoon, 13 were still hospitalized — five of whom were under 18.
Travis Scott is under fire, and people are suing
More than a dozen victims have already filed lawsuits against Scott and other festival organizers.
Some Astroworld attendees allege Scott saw people near the front of the stage passed out or otherwise unconscious. They believe he and other organizers should’ve stopped the show immediately.
Astroworld attendee Manuel Souza filed a lawsuit this weekend against Scott, Live Nation and Scoremore. He says he was injured and is seeking $1 million in damages.
Souza says in his lawsuit that the incident was a “predictable and preventable tragedy” and that organizers didn’t do enough to plan for and prevent what unfolded. He also pointed to prior shows of Scott’s in which the rapper allegedly encouraged fans to act out.
Scott was arrested in 2015 after telling his fans to jump the barricades during his Lollapalooza performance and in 2017 for encouraging people to rush the stage at a performance in Arkansas.
Attorney Ben Crump has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 21-year-old attendee Noah Gutierrez. Crump says Gutierrez and others in the VIP section scrambled to try to lift people off the floor as they screamed for help.
“We are hearing horrific accounts of the terror and helplessness people experienced — the horror of a crushing crowd and the awful trauma of watching people die while trying unsuccessfully to save them,” Crump said as he announced the suit. He also urged more people affected by the tragedy to contact his office.
The brother of victim Danish Baig, who was killed during the crowd rush, told ABC13 that the family plans to hire an attorney.
Basil Baig told the news station that the family hadn’t heard from Scott or other event organizers.
“Travis Scott and his team and everyone associated in the event should and will be held responsible,” Baig told ABC13. “He [didn’t] stop the show even with people chanting to stop the show. He allowed it. This was a bloodbath, and all of it is on his hands.”
Scott, whose real name is Jacques Webster, is a Grammy-nominated rapper and Houston native.
In a public statement shared on Twitter, Scott said, “My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival. … I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need.”
He also released videos to his Instagram account in which he appears distraught.
“I just want to send out prayers to the ones that were lost last night,” Scott said Saturday. “My fans really mean the world to me.”
He went on to urge people who know anything about what might’ve happened Friday night to contact authorities.
As news of the lawsuits surfaced, Live Nation released a statement, “We continue to support and assist local authorities in their ongoing investigation so that both the fans who attended and their families can get the answers they want and deserve, and we will address all legal matters at the appropriate time.”
Reports say the show went on for nearly 40 minutes while the emergency unfolded
Before the concert even started on Friday, the festival appeared to get off to a rough start. Videos posted by a local news channel show large crowds of people rushing through collapsed gates to get into the concert.
No security guards were seen responding for over a minute, even as people, who can be heard screaming, became stuck underneath the crowd pushing to get in. Police arrived on horseback to the gates shortly after.
As Scott’s set started, the crowd allegedly became chaotic. One firsthand account shared on social media describes an intense crush toward the stage, with no room for concertgoers to breathe or properly move. People started to collapse after several minutes of this.
Concertgoers say they attempted to get the attention of security and other staff at the show to help people who were having difficulty breathing or who collapsed.
Turner, the mayor, said Saturday afternoon that the city’s police and firefighters responded quickly to emergency calls at the show. Officials were already stationed at NRG Park to provide security.
There are conflicting details regarding the timeline of events and when officials started to respond on scene and when Scott stopped performing.
Police have said the concert’s promoter, Live Nation, agreed at 9:38 p.m. to cut the show shortly after multiple people were reported to have collapsed.
But for 37 minutes after the city’s police and firefighters responded to the concert grounds for a “mass casualty” event, Scott continued to play his entire set, ending at around 10:15 p.m., the Houston Chronicle reported.
Turner, however, repeatedly said Saturday that “everything stopped” at 10:10 p.m.
Videos and pictures shared on social media show two people attempting to get the attention of cameramen who were standing on a raised platform. In at least one video, the two people can be seen yelling at the cameramen to stop the show and pointing to the crowd.
City officials said their investigation will likely take some time as the festival’s organizers, performers and audience members are interviewed and a collection of videos and pictures taken that night are reviewed.