Drugs not a factor in Astroworld deaths and all victims died from compression asphyxia, medical examiner rules

10 were killed and 300 injured after a massive crowd surge at the Astroworld concert last month

Sravasti Dasgupta
Friday 17 December 2021 16:05 GMT
‘Compression asphyxia’: Cause of death for all 10 Astroworld victims in Houston, Texas

Compression asphyxia led to the deaths of the 10 victims of the massive crowd surge at the Astroworld music festival in Houston last month, a medical examiner has ruled.

Officials from the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences on Thursday ruled out homicide or death caused by another person and said compression asphyxia – which occurs when breathing is compromised due to external forces – caused the deaths.

At least 50,000 people had gathered on 5 November on the first night of rapper Travis Scott’s two-day Astroworld festival in Houston. An unprecedented crowd surge at the event had pushed people towards the stage leaving 10 people dead and 300 injured.

The youngest victim was 9-year-old Ezra Blount. The others who died were between the ages of 14 and 27. They were identified as Danish Baig, Rodolfo Peña, Madison Dubiski, Franco Patino, Jacob Jurinek, John Hilgert, Axel Acosta Avila, Brianna Rodriguez and Bharti Shahani.

The medical examiner added that one of the victims had drugs in his system and listed “combined toxic effects of cocaine, methamphetamine and ethanol” as a contributing cause to his death.

However, officials said they would not be releasing any more information at this time, adding that they had to wait several weeks after the concert to conduct additional tests to confirm the contributing cause of death.

Over 200 lawsuits have been brought against Scott, festival promoter Live Nation Entertainment, the NRG Park concert venue, and others involved in the event by the families of the victims.

The lawsuits alleged negligence, saying the concert did not have enough space as people were squeezed in so tightly together that they could not move or breathe.

Allegations relating to security and staffing issues have also emerged after the tragedy.

“This re-opens a fresh wound for many families who are still trying to make sense of what happened,” Harris County’s top executive Lina Hidalgo told the Associated Press.

After the medical examiner’s report was released, families of the victims said the report only confirmed what they knew all along.

“Axel [Acosta] was crushed and killed that night by the crowd, through no fault of his own. It is also important to note that Axel’s blood contained absolutely no intoxicants or other like substances,” Tony Buzbee, the attorney for the Acosta family, told CNN.

The family of 21-year-old Acosta is one of the five families that have rejected Scott’s offer to cover funeral costs. The others include families of 21-year-old friends Jacob Jurinek and Franco Patino and 14-year-old John Hilgert as well as the family of 9-year-old Ezra.

“The only conclusion to be drawn from the medical examiner’s findings is that Travis Scott, Live Nation, and the other defendants created a horrific death trap and are responsible for Jake and Franco’s deaths,” said Philip Corboy Jr, the attorney representing the Jurinek and Patino families.

Scott has denied liability for the deaths in his response to one of the 200 lawsuits over the event, as he applied to have it dismissed.

Additional reporting by agencies

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