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Astroworld Festival – latest: Police launch criminal probe as Travis Scott promises to help victims’ families

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At least 8 dead, several others injured during Astroworld music festival, officials say

Travis Scott and the organisers of the Astroworld event that left eight people dead have been sued by an injured concertgoer who branded it a “predictable and preventable tragedy.”

Lawyers for Manuel Souza filed a petition in Harris County District Court suing Scott, event organiser ScoreMore and concert giant Live Nation over the Friday night incident, according to Billboard.

At least two investigations are now underway into the deadly stampede which took placed at the opening night of the Astroworld music festival in Houston, Texas.

A sold-out headline show by rapper and festival organiser Travis Scott on turned deadly when guests began pushing towards the front of the stage, crushing some and reportedly leaving them unable to breathe.

Officials said a 14-year-old was among the victims, and that a security guard may have been injected with drugs as the chaos unfolded.

The mayor of Houston has vowed to “leave [no] stone unturned” in investigating the disaster, while Mr Scott said in a message to fans that he is “absolutely devastated.”

Livestreamed footage of the event showed the rapper pausing his performance as an ambulance arrived at the venue, NRG Park.

Follow latest updates below:

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The big unanswered questions

As lawsuits and investigations kick into gear, here are some big questions still remaining to be answered about the Astroworld disaster.

1: Why wasn't the show stopped earlier?

There are many points when Travis Scott's set could have stopped before he finished his last song at around 10:10pm.

It could have stopped at 9:30pm, when multiple people had collapsed and needed chest compressions; or at 9:35, which is reportedly when two concertgoers climbed onto a camera platform and begged the operator to intervene; or at 9:38pm, when the Houston Fire Department declared a "mass casualty event".

That raises a lot of questions. For instance, the camera operator appears to have had a walkie talkie on his belt and a headset on his ears; could he have used those to call in the problem?

Police chief Troy Finner has said that Astroworld was shut down as fast as it could have been, saying: “You cannot just close when you have 50,000 individuals that young. You can have rioting.”

But would it have helped if Mr Scott had stopped his performance, or made an announcement, or if Live Nation had cut the lights and sound?

Seanna McCarty tries to stop the show on Friday night

2: Were crowd control measures up to scratch?

What happened at Astroworld is known as a "human crush", and such events are all too common: from the Hillsborough football stadium disaster of 1989, which killed 97 people, to the catastrophe that killed an estimated 2,400 pilgrims in Mecca in 2015.

Experts say that this is a likely risk of large crowds unless specific mitigation measures are in place. The density of the crowd can be limited, with measures to force gaps or barriers to break it up into multiple smaller crowds. Such barriers can also ensure access and movement for event staff.

G Keith Still, a professor of crowd science at the University of Suffolk, told the Associated Press that event organisers need strong crowd management systems to spot red flags early and report them up the chain.

Steve Allen, a UK crowd consultant who has personally stopped about 25 performances, including by Oasis, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Eminem, said events should have trained crowd spotters with noise-cancelling headphones who remain at all times in direct communication with someone who has the power to stop the show.

So: did Live Nation have such systems in place? And if it did, what happened to them?

What was the plan for Astroworld?

3: How does the report of ‘drug injections’ tie in?

In a press conference on Saturday, Chief Finner made a shocking suggestion: that a security officer at the concert may have been injected with drugs by an unknown person at the time of the surge.

He said: "We do have a report of a security officer, according to the medical staff that treated him last night, that he was reaching over to restrain or grab a citizen and he felt a prick in his neck."

He said the officer was revived with Narcan, a nasal spray used to treat suspected opioid overdoses, and that medical staff "did notice a prick that was similar to what you would get if somebody was trying to inject".

Nothing more has been heard since then, and it's unclear whether anyone else had the same "prick". Does the security guard's report help explain the cause of the crush, or is it simply an unrelated red herring?

We have to be careful here, because given what we know about crowd disasters, no drug or narcotic assault is necessary to explain how they happen. Even so, many people on social media have seized on the idea that someone was going around injecting concertgoers, of which there is yet little evidence.

Io Dodds9 November 2021 04:02
1636430542

The big unanswered questions

As lawsuits and investigations kick into gear, here are some big questions still remaining to be answered about the Astroworld disaster.

1: Why wasn't the show stopped earlier?

There are many points when Travis Scott's set could have stopped before he finished his last song at around 10:10pm.

It could have stopped at 9:30pm, when multiple people had collapsed and needed chest compressions; or at 9:35, which is reportedly when two concertgoers climbed onto a camera platform and begged the operator to intervene; or at 9:38pm, when the Houston Fire Department declared a "mass casualty event".

That raises a lot of questions. For instance, the camera operator appears to have had a walkie talkie on his belt and a headset on his ears; could he have used those to call in the problem?

Police chief Troy Finner has said that Astroworld was shut down as fast as it could have been, saying: “You cannot just close when you have 50,000 individuals that young. You can have rioting.”

But would it have helped if Mr Scott had stopped his performance, or made an announcement, or if Live Nation had cut the lights and sound?

Seanna McCarty tries to stop the show on Friday night

2: Were crowd control measures up to scratch?

What happened at Astroworld is known as a "human crush", and such events are all too common: from the Hillsborough football stadium disaster of 1989, which killed 97 people, to the catastrophe that killed an estimated 2,400 pilgrims in Mecca in 2015.

Experts say that this is a likely risk of large crowds unless specific mitigation measures are in place. The density of the crowd can be limited, with measures to force gaps or barriers to break it up into multiple smaller crowds. Such barriers can also ensure access and movement for event staff.

G Keith Still, a professor of crowd science at the University of Suffolk, told the Associated Press that event organisers need strong crowd management systems to spot red flags early and report them up the chain.

Steve Allen, a UK crowd consultant who has personally stopped about 25 performances, including by Oasis, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Eminem, said events should have trained crowd spotters with noise-cancelling headphones who remain at all times in direct communication with someone who has the power to stop the show.

So: did Live Nation have such systems in place? And if it did, what happened to them?

What was the plan for Astroworld?

3: How does the report of ‘drug injections’ tie in?

In a press conference on Saturday, Chief Finner made a shocking suggestion: that a security officer at the concert may have been injected with drugs by an unknown person at the time of the surge.

He said: "We do have a report of a security officer, according to the medical staff that treated him last night, that he was reaching over to restrain or grab a citizen and he felt a prick in his neck."

He said the officer was revived with Narcan, a nasal spray used to treat suspected opioid overdoses, and that medical staff "did notice a prick that was similar to what you would get if somebody was trying to inject".

Nothing more has been heard since then, and it's unclear whether anyone else had the same "prick". Does the security guard's report help explain the cause of the crush, or is it simply an unrelated red herring?

We have to be careful here, because given what we know about crowd disasters, no drug or narcotic assault is necessary to explain how they happen. Even so, many people on social media have seized on the idea that someone was going around injecting concertgoers, of which there is yet little evidence.

Io Dodds9 November 2021 04:02
1636427205

Student victim was 'trampled on like trash', says family's lawyer

A 21-year-old student who died at Astroworld had the “life squeezed out of” him and was then “trampled on like a piece of trash”, the family lawyer’s has alleged.

Axel Acosta, of Washington state, had travelled to Houston by himself to attend the concert, having saved up pay for a flight from Seattle and the price of a ticket.

His family’s lawyer Tony Buzbee said Mr Acosta had not been trampled in a "crowd rush" but had died from asphyxiation, which is more common in crowd disasters.

"The air was literally, slowly squeezed out of him, sending his heart into cardiac arrest," said Mr Buzbee, blaming the "immense force" of a crowd allowed to get out of control by Mr Scott’s and the festival organisers’ "gross negligence".

Io Dodds9 November 2021 03:06
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Nine-year-old victim in critical condition

A nine-year-old boy is in critical condition after falling from his father’s shoulders, The Sun reports.

Ezra Blount suffered from brain swelling and organ damage after falling off his father’s shoulders and being trampled, according to his aunt Taylor Gabrielle Blount.

She said that Ezra’s father, Treston, had been keeping him above the fray until he himself passed out from the pressure of the crowd crush all around him. Ezra is now in an induced coma in a children’s hospital.

"He’s still in a critical condition in an induced coma," Ms Blount said. "We are praying and waiting... we were told he wasn’t expected to live, but it’s been three days so we’re praying he pulls through. He’s a fighter."

Ms Blount said her brother, Ezra’s father, had woken up without his son and been terrified about what might have happened to him. Hospital staff did not initially know to contact the Blounts because Ezra was found separately to his father.

Ezra became a fan of Travis Scott through the video game Fortnite, where more than 12 million people watched the rap star in a virtual concert last year.

Citing previous examples of Mr Scott encouraging his fans to "rage" at live events, Ms Blount said: "You would have hoped he’d have learned his lesson, but it seems he hasn’t."

Io Dodds9 November 2021 02:12
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Houston fire chief says Travis Scott shares responsibility

Samuel Piña, chief of the Houston Fire Department, has said that Travis Scott shares responsibility for the disaster and could have mitigated it by ending his show sooner.

Speaking to CNN on Monday, Mr Piña said: "If the lights would have been turned on – [if] the promoter or artist called for that – it would have chilled the crowd, and who knows? Who knows what the outcome would have been?"

"But everybody in that venue, starting from the artist on down, has a responsibility for public safety."

Io Dodds9 November 2021 01:36
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Nurse who helped victims ‘harassed by conspiracy theorists'

Madeline Eskins, a nurse who gave emergency care to Astroworld guests after passing out in the crush, has said she has become the target of conspiracy theories from people claiming that her story is made up.

"People on Facebook [are] saying I’m a PAID ACTOR now, Jesus Christ," she tweeted on Monday morning.

It’s not clear what she was referring to, but one comment was visible under one of her posts claiming: "She didn’t see anything. It was a false flag." Other users on Twitter mocked her, argued with her account of events or asked about her vaccination status.

Online conspiracy communities on TikTok and Telegram, some connected to the QAnon movement, have swiftly adopted Astroworld into their ever-shifting network of theories. Far-Right and white supremacist leaders have also jumped on the trend.

Many have focused on the cruciform shape of Mr Scott’s stage when viewed from above and the gigantic "portal" structure behind it, claiming them as evidence that the show was a Satanic sacrifice ritual.

This is routine behaviour for conspiracist online influencers, who maintain their audiences by continually interpreting every major news event in line with their existing narratives.

The Astroworld main stage where Travis Scott was performing on Friday evening

Io Dodds9 November 2021 00:58
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#CancelTravisScott: music fans call for Spotify boycott

Music fans are calling for a boycott of Travis Scott’s music on Spotify as recriminations ripple across social media.

TikTok videos with the hashtag #CancelTravisScott have now been viewed about 7.1m times, while tweets under the hashtag picked up tens of thousands of likes and thousands of retweets.

Many users shared instructions on how to stop streaming Mr Scott on Spotify. "If enough people do this, he will start to lose money from his fans that he doesn’t even deserve," said one. "F*** him. F** his music."

Several fans or former fans of Mr Scott told The Daily Beast that they would do the same. “He won’t ever earn a penny from me," said Holly Jen, while Lennox Elliot said muting the rapper on Spotify was "only a small fraction" of what he felt he should be doing.

Io Dodds9 November 2021 00:26
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Fortnite blocks Travis Scott emote from sale

Fortnite players appear to have been blocked from buying an in-game gesture featuring audio from Travis Scott song.

Epic Games, the company that runs Fortnite, confirmed on Sunday that it had removed the "daily" section of its virtual item shop, but did not explain why, saying only that it was "intentional".

However, fans who track virtual items sales had expected Monday’s daily shop to feature Mr Scott’s "Out West" gesture, coinciding with the buzz around Astroworld. A post on Reddit suggests that it was actually briefly available.

Now the whole daily section has been removed, an unusual step for a game that is free to play and makes most of its money from virtual item sales. Players who already bought the gesture can still use it.

The gesture, one of many in-game actions that Fortnite players can buy and then trigger during play, was released last August and is modeled on a TiKTok dance craze that uses Mr Scott’s 2019 song ‘Out West’ as its soundtrack.

Fortnite items rotate through its daily shop page on unpredictable schedules, encouraging players to snap up coveted items while they are still available. According to the game data website Skin Tracker, Out West was last available on 8 October.

Mr Scott has a long association with Fortnite, having held a record-breaking virtual concert during the first wave of the pandemic last year.

An Epic spokeswoman contacted by the The Independent declined to comment.

Travis Scott appears on Fortnite in April 2020

Io Dodds9 November 2021 00:09
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Victim’s father says ‘we were told our son was not on list of the dead’

The father of a 21-year-old man who died at the Travis Scott concert, has claimed his family was initially told by the authorities their son was not on the list of the dead.

Axel Acosta, of Washington state, had travelled to Houston by himself to attend the concert, finally able to afford a ticket for a flight, and the price of entry.

Yet the trip turned to tragedy, when a crush among the crowd left eight people dead and hundreds injured.

On Monday, as a number of lawsuits were filed against the rapper and the promoters of the concert at the Astroworld festival, a lawyer for the Acosta family said alleged that the young man had the “life squeezed out of him”.

Meanwhile, the young man’s father, Edgar Acosta, said the family had initially been told that their son was not on the list of fatalities from Saturday night’s incident at the NRG Park.

Andrew Buncombe has the full story...

Astroworld victim’s father says ‘we were told our son not on list of the dead’

The father of a 21-year-old man who died at the Travis Scott concert, has claimed his family was initially told by the authorities their son was not on the list of the dead.

Bevan Hurley8 November 2021 23:15
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Survivors of the deadly Astroworld crowd surge tell of ‘fight for their lives’

They came from all over Houston and beyond, arriving up to 12 hours early to secure a place close to the stage and experience up-close one of the rage-fuelled performances Travis Scott is renowned for.

Children as young as 10, high school friends, and young professionals out celebrating the return of stadium festivals crowded into Houston’s NRG Park early Friday.

But something was amiss. Houston Police Department chief Troy Finner said he felt trouble brewing in the lead up to Friday’s performance and tried to warn Scott and his head of security of his concerns in a private meeting on Friday afternoon.

The global pandemic and “social tension” had combined to create a combustible atmosphere at the Houston stadium, Mr Finner told organisers, and he asked them not to further inflame tensions.

At 8.30pm, a 30-minute clock began counting down to 9pm when the hometown rapper was due to take the stage.

Anticipation quickly turned to fear as people began to push their way to the front.

Read the full story here...

Survivors of the deadly Astroworld surge tell of ‘fight for their lives’

After eight people died at the Astroworld Festival, harrowing stories of survival are emerging

Bevan Hurley8 November 2021 23:00

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