A “needle” wielding assailant suspected of injecting at least one person with a possible opioid may have sparked the panic that killed at least eight people and injured 300 others during a stampede at rapper Travis Scott’s concert in Houston, authorities said Saturday.
The tragedy happened Friday at NRG Park when a mass of people among the 50,000 concertgoers at the sold-out show “began to compress” to the front of the stage at around 9:15 p.m., sparking mayhem according to Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña.
The preliminary investigation found a security guard was jabbed in the neck while he was among the fans packed into the park for the first of two nights at Astroworld, a festival Scott founded in 2018, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said at a Saturday afternoon press conference.
Police have not yet interviewed the guard, Finner said, but medical staff that treated him said he was administered Narcan, a drug used to revive people who have overdosed on opiods, and they saw what looked like a needle mark on his neck.
Narcan was used to revive some other concertgoers as well, Finner said, but he was unable to say how many.
“We do know that there were several, many, instances where they did administer Narcan on site,” he said.
“This is now a criminal investigation that is going to involve our homcide division, as well as narcotics,” Finner said during a press conference Saturday afternoon.
At least 11 of the 25 people taken to area hospitals were in cardiac arrest, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena said. Officials said 13 remained hospitalized late Saturday, including five under the age of 18 and at least one 10-year-old. Officials did not detail their injuries.
Others among the dead and injured were trampled as the crowd surged toward the stage, Finner said.
Some 300 people were treated at a field hospital set at the stadium during the “mass casualty incident,” authorities said.
The department is awaiting autopsy reports on the victims, who ranged in age from 14 to 27. The results from the medical examiner will provide more information as to the extent of any possible sticking attacks, a problem that has been reported in some clubs in the UK in recent weeks.
A source close to concert organizers told The Post they believe that is what happened, suggesting that the people who collapsed were all in the same area of the crowd.
“This was a targeted attack on innocent people, including a child,” the source maintained. “People were being spiked against their own will.”
Officials said they will also examine video taken by Scott’s crews and the promoters, Live Nation, along with materials provided by the public, for clues into any attacks along with what caused the crowd to surge.
“As soon as he jumped out on stage, it was like an energy took over and everything went haywire,” concertgoer Niaara Goods said. “All of a sudden, your ribs are being crushed. You have someone’s arm in your neck. You’re trying to breath, but you can’t.”
Goods said she was so desperate to get out of the crush that she bit a man on the shoulder to get him to move.
Marisa Angulo, 18, of Houston, said she had attended all three of the prior Astroworld events, named for a now-shuttered Six Flags park in Houston. She was four rows back from the barricade in front of the stage when Scott came out, felt a giant push and saw people getting pulled over the barricade.
“I’ve never seen such panicked looks on people’s faces,” Angulo told the Post. “They looked horrified.”
Courtney Spencer, also 18, of Frisco, Texas, said the experience was “terrifying.”
“I was fearing for my own life,” she told the Post. “I was getting put in a chokehold by people continuously because I couldn’t move. My arms were stuck to my body.”
“I had to adjust my feet ever second to make sure I didn’t slip and fall,” Spencer added. “If you fell down, people did not help you out. It was absolutely insane.”
Billy Nasser, a 24-year-old DJ who was at the festival, said, “The crowd was moving so hard, people were falling over and then tripping over the people on the ground.” He posted video of a man receiving chest compressions as a cart he was on moved through the crowd.
“I have been to so many festivals,” he said. “I have never seen anything like this before.”
Some people kept dancing, seemingly not realizing what was happening, but videos shot at the concert flew around the internet Saturday, including several that showed fans desperately trying to get the concert to stop.
Officials said the first signs of problems appeared about 9:15 p.m. and the concert was shut down at 10:10 p.m.
Several videos showed Scott apparently noticing an ambulance moving through the crowd. He stopped performing for a few moments, then promised to “make this motherf–king ground shake,” and resumed the show.
Other posts showed Scott standing on the same platform looking at a group of security officers carrying an unconscious fan, and several cops attending to another man on the ground. It is unclear if the same victim was in both videos.
Yet another clip posted on Twitter showed people in the crowd shouting “Stop the show!” though it was unlikely the group could be heard on stage. Still more circulating online showed crowd members begging camera crews to raise the alarm and shut it down.
Finner, the police chief, credited Scott and Live Nation with acting quickly to shut the show down once it was apparent multiple people were hurt.
Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite was near the front of the crowd and said it seemed the surge “happened all at once.”
“Suddenly we had several people down on the ground, experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode,” Satterwhite said. “And so we immediately started doing CPR, and moving people right then, and that’s when I went and met with the promoters, and Live Nation, and they agreed to end early in the interest of public safety.”
Scott said in a Twitter post he is “absolutely devastated” by the deaths and pledged to support authorities as they investigate the tragedy.
“My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival.”
The singer kept clear of the criticism about continuing to perform in his statement and focused on the investigation.
“Houston PD has my total support as they continue to look into the tragic loss of life,” his statement said.
“I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need,” he continued. “Thank you to Houston PD, Fire Department and NRG Park for their immediate response and support. Love You All.”
Many who attended also slammed medical crews at the park as poorly trained and ill-equipped to treat the injured.
Madeline Eskins, who was at the concert and told the Post that she’s an ICU nurse in Humble, Texas, posted on Instagram that she initially passed out during the crush near the stage.
She said her unconscious body was apparently “crowdsurfed” out of the packed crowd and when she woke up, “I had a water bottle in my lap and had no clue what happened.”
She looked around and saw that people were being carried out with their eyes rolled back, “bleeding from their nose and mouth” and ended up trying to help security check victims’ pulses. One had none.
A security guard asked her to help and she found no emergency equipment, such as Ambu bags used to resuscitate people who can’t breathe or defibrillators used to shock hearts.
“Some of these medical staff had little to no experience with CPR, didn’t know how to check a pulse, carotid or femoral,” Eskins wrote in her post. She said some people who had pulses were getting unneeded CPR, but there were not enough people to do CPR “on individuals that were actually pulseless.”
“The medical staff didn’t have the tools to do their jobs,” she continued.
Similar stories about untrained and ill-equipped staff were posted across social media. “I watched a girl die in front of me all because these ‘medics’ were so ill prepared,” a person who claimed to be a trained medic wrote on Reddit.
A spokesman for the promoters told The Post there were 96 experienced EMTs on hand at the concert.
Pena acknowledged that the medical personnel stationed at the event were quickly overwhelmed and credited the police and other emergency responders with quick action “trying to secure what was really a chaotic event.”
The mayhem followed several injuries earlier in the day, when a crowd rushed the VIP entrance and scrambled into the stadium without going through security or COVID checks.
The two-day event’s 100,000 tickets sold out within an hour of going on sale in May. Saturday’s performances were canceled.
CNN.com Judge asks Ahmaud Arbery’s father to leave the courtroom after he cheers “guilty” verdict Judge Timothy Walmsley asked Marcus Arbery Sr., the fatherContinue Reading
A Texas school district is investigating a viral video of a white high school hitting a Black teacher. The clip, which was taken at CastleberryContinue Reading