Astroworld venue's operations plan had no contingency for crowd surge

Astroworld venue’s 56-page operations plan had no contingency for crowd surge and only $26 million insurance liability: Houston fire officials ‘lost contact’ with private medics as tragedy unfolded and their two-way radios weren’t working

  • Astroworld music festival’s operations included protocols for some dangerous scenarios, but did not include information on how to respond to a crowd surge
  • At least eight people died and hundreds were injured last Friday after concertgoers stormed the stage as rapper Travis Scott performed 
  • Houston fire officials were reportedly unable to reach on-site medics on their cell phones, which went unanswered during the chaos 
  • Emergency medic technicians said their radios stopped functioning 
  • Said one medic working the event: ‘I had called for backup and for help so many times and it was just not going through’

A 56-page event operations plan for the Astroworld music festival included protocols for dangerous scenarios including an active shooter, bomb or terrorist threats, and severe weather, but it did not include information on what to do in the event of a crowd surge.

But that’s what authorities believe happened Friday night when eight people died after headliner Travis Scott took the stage at the outdoor festival in Houston that is now the focus of a criminal investigation. 

New accounts of the doomed concert indicated fire officials lost contact with emergency medics as the gravity of the situation overwhelmed first responders.

Houston fire department officials were unable to reach on-site medics because their cell phones went unanswered amid the chaos, USA Today reported. 

Meantime, one EMT who worked the event said his two-way radio stopped functioning as emergency teams split up to help victims.

Eight people died and hundreds more were injured after the concertgoers surged toward the stage as rapper Travis Scott performed last Friday during the Astroworld Festival in Houston

Although the operations plan for the festival included protocols for numerous dangerous scenarios, it did not include information on what to do in the event of a crowd surge

‘To give you context, the radio wasn’t working,’ the medic said on TikTok under the username remi.rich. 

‘The music was way too loud. I had called for backup and for help so many times and it was just not going through.’

As the scene turned deadly, he said revelers continued to move toward the stage, seemingly oblivious to those injured around them. 

TikTok user remi.rich said he was working for the festival as a medic, and noted that his radio wasn’t functioning as concertgoers began collapsing

The Astroworld main stage where Travis Scott was performing Friday evening sits full of debris from the concert, in a parking lot at NRG Center on November 8 in Houston

‘My observations were that there was zero crowd etiquette at all,’ he said. ‘They just wanted to get closer to the show closer to Travis Scott and do their thing. They didn’t give a single damn about anyone around them.

‘It was an absolute s*** show.’

Authorities have said 50,000 people attended the event.

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Reply to @remi.rich Astroworld (2/3) #astroworld #astroworldfestival #astroworld2021 #travisscott

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Among the hundreds injured was a 9-year-old boy who was trampled and remained in a medically induced coma at a Houston hospital Tuesday, according to his family.

‘In any situation where large groups of people are gathering, there is the potential for a civil disturbance/riot that can present a grave risk to the safety and security of employees and guests,’ the plan said. 

‘The key in properly dealing with this type of scenario is proper management of the crowd from the minute the doors open. 

‘Crowd management techniques will be employed to identify potentially dangerous crowd behavior in its early stages in an effort to prevent a civil disturbance/riot.’

Two people who knew an unidentified victim of a fatal incident at the Houston Astroworld concert embrace at a memorial on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)

A man places a candle at a memorial in Houston for the victims of the Astroworld music festival on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)

If crowds are displaying threatening or destructive behavior, security and a supervisor should be notified, the plan said.

Experts say crowd surge deaths happen because people are packed into a space so tightly that they are being squeezed and can’t get oxygen. It´s not usually because they´re being trampled.

None of the people listed in charge of managing Astroworld´s security and operations have responded to requests for comment.

Concertgoers are seen scrambling after multiple injuries were reported at the festival

The concert was attended by about 50,000 people, authorities have said

Over 300 people were treated at a field hospital on site and at least 13 were hospitalized.

The Tik Tok user refuted any suggestion that the on-site medics were unqualified to help the injured. 

‘Everyone in the med tent was the absolute A-team,’ he said.

‘In the medical tent, they had two doctors, a SWAT physician, a ton of SWAT medics, seasoned paramedics and then basics. If you could draw in a team an A-team from Houston that aren’t doctors, they were there. 

‘It was just a situation where maybe just over 100 or 150 personnel was responsible for probably over 50,000 highly irresponsible people. Whose fault is it? My observation was the crowd.

A medic working the concert blamed the tragedy on ‘50,000 highly irresponsible people’

Bernon Blount said his son and 9-year-old grandson, Ezra, had come from out of town to attend the festival together. 

But they became separated during the crowd surge, Blount said, setting off a frantic search to locate Ezra who was eventually found at a hospital. 

Blount said his grandson´s heart, lungs and brain were injured in the melee.

‘My son, once he had passed out from the pressure being applied to him during the concert, he passed out and Ezra fell into the crowd,’ Blount told The Associated Press. 

‘When my son awakened, Ezra wasn´t there.’

Scott met with Houston’s police chief to discuss safety concerns before Friday’s show

Houston´s police chief said Monday that he met with Scott to discuss safety concerns before the rapper performed on Friday. 

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said Scott’s head of a security also attended that meeting, but he did not provide details of their conversation in a statement released by the police department.

Houston police and fire department investigators have said they are reviewing surveillance video provided by concert promoter Live Nation, as well as dozens of clips from people at the show that were widely shared on social media. 

 A video circulating online earlier this week showed fans begging the stage crew to halt Scott’s performance, screaming: ‘There is somebody dead in there. There is someone dead.’

Shocking video shows a woman imploring a cameraman to stop the show, telling him ‘There is somebody dead in there’ The crew member dismisses his concerns as he continues filming

Another fan jumps on stage and screams ‘stop the show’ as the death toll began mounting during rapper Travis Scott’s Astroworld performance in Houston, Texas on Friday

Crew members appeared apathetic and ignored fans in the video posted to TikTok, which shows a cameraman continuing to operate his equipment as fans beg him to help.

‘Stop the show,’ another fan cried.

Video circulating on Twitter shows fans begging the rapper to stop performing and chanting ‘stop the show’ as concertgoers were being knocked down and crushed by other attendees.

‘Fans were recording the concert and people doing CPR. Fans were yelling at the stage crew around us, saying stop the concert, people are dying. No one listened,’ ICU nurse and concert attendee Madeline Eskins told Rolling Stone.

 ‘It was definitely overcrowded. It was insane, honestly. I knew it was just way too crowded – it just got worse and worse as I got closer to Travis Scott performing it got more crowded, more crowded, more crowded.’

Investigators also planned to speak with Live Nation representatives, Scott and concertgoers.

Around 2pm Friday, hundreds of fans stormed the festival’s VIP entrance. Seven hours later, the surge in front of the main stage killed eight people

Live Nation said in a statement Monday that full refunds would be offered to all attendees.

Scott’s scheduled appearance at the Day N Vegas Festival in Las Vegas this weekend was canceled, according to a Scott representative who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Scott, who founded the Astroworld festival, said he would cover funeral costs for the victims. The dead ranged in age from 14 to 27 and came from Texas, Illinois and Washington state, according to Harris County authorities. 

They included high schoolers, an aspiring Border Patrol agent and a computer science student.

Edgar Acosta, the father of Houston concert victim Axel Acosta Avila, speaks at a news conference with an attorney in Houston on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021

 

Stacey Sarmiento places flowers at a memorial in Houston on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021 in memory of her friend, Rudy Pena, who died in a crush of people at the Astroworld music festival on Friday. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)

It could be several weeks before medical examiners release the causes of death, said Michele Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

Astroworld´s security and emergency medical response protocols filed with Harris County and obtained by the AP states ‘the potential for multiple alcohol/drug related incidents, possible evacuation needs, and the ever-present threat of a mass casualty situation are identified as key concerns.’

The plan instructs staff to ‘notify Event Control of a suspected deceased victim utilizing the code `Smurf´.’ 

It goes on to say, ‘never use the term `dead´ or `deceased´ over the radio.’ 

It´s not clear whether the protocol was followed.

There is a long history of similar catastrophes at concerts, as well as sporting and religious events. In 1979, 11 people were killed as thousands of fans tried to get into Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum to see a concert by The Who. 

Other crowd catastrophes include the deaths of 97 people at a soccer match in Hillsborough Stadium in 1989 in Sheffield, England, and numerous disasters connected with the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

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