The Astroworld Tragedy & The Fall of Travis Scott

Astroworld is an annual music festival that is run by Jacques Berman Webster II aka Travis Scott.

Travis is a well-known rapper. He has been dating Kylie Jenner on and off since 2017. He and Kylie have a daughter named Stormi and are expecting a second child together.

Some of his most popular songs are ‘Sicko Mode,’ (ft. Drake) ‘Highest in the Room,’ and ‘Goosebumps’

In September 2020, Travis became the first artist on the Hot 100 to have three songs debut at number one in less than a year and he has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards and won a Billboard Music Award and a Latin Grammy Award

Astroworld, named after his 2018 album, is held yearly in Houston, Texas at NRG park. It was held in 2018 and 2019.  It was cancelled due to Covid in 2020.  The 2021 event was scheduled for November 5-6.

Travis said Astroworld was a concept he had been working on since he was 6 years old. He said he wanted to “bring back the beloved spirit and nostalgia of AstroWorld, making a childhood dream of his come true.“ 

If you want more information on how the festival came into existence, there is a Netflix documentary called “Look Mom I Can Fly” that covers the release of his Astroworld album and Travis’s rise to fame.

The documentary also gives you a good idea of how passionate his fans are and how he encourages them to cause chaos. There are a lot of clips of fans rushing barricades, crowd surfing, moshing, jumping off balconies etc.

The first Astroworld lineup featured Post Malone and Young Thug.  We haven’t been able to find a confirmed attendance figure for the first event, but know that it grew in 2019 to 50k attendees.

In 2019, the festival expanded to include a different genre of music which included Marilyn Manson. During the 2019 festival there was an incident when the crowd surged and breached the barricades. This lead to 100 more security personnel being employed for the 2021 concert.

A TCS instagram follower sent us this info about 2019 Astroworld

The 2021 event was always going to be big – especially following the covid shutdown.  The festival was extended to run for two days, scheduled for 5-6 November.  100,000 tickets went on sale on May 5- doubling the amount of attendees from previous years.
Despite the fact that there had been a steep rise in ticket prices, (This year, the price jumped to $300 plus an additional $65 in fees. Fans who wanted the Stargazing VIP treatment paid $725 plus a $69 fee. Those who wanted to splurge a little on the No Bystander VIP treatment paid $1,000 plus a $78 fee.) the event sold out within 30 minutes.  

Travis Scott made these social media posts:

These posts weren’t the first time that Travis had tried to rile his fans up.

In 2015, Travis pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct after his fans jumped a security barricade at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago.

The Office of Emergency Management said at the time: ‘The performer played one song and then began telling fans to come over the barricades. Due to the security’s quick response, the situation was remedied immediately and no fans were injured.

He said:

‘All my real ragers jump the barricade right now. Let’s go. Come over. ‘I want chaos.’

In April 2017, a man named Kyle Green was injured after he was allegedly ‘pushed’ from a balcony during a super crowded concert of Travis’s at Terminal 5 in Manhattan.

Kyle broke several bones, including a vertebrae, in the accident and was removed from the floor by show staff “without a cervical collar, backboard and other safety precautions,” according to a lawsuit he filed.

Kyle claimed that Travis made matters worse by ordering the security guards to drag his injured body to the stage so the rapper could try to give him a ring as a consolation prize.

At the 2017 show, Scott had encouraged another fan to jump off the balcony. 

‘I see you, but are you gonna do it?’ Scott asked. ‘They gonna catch you. Don’t be scared. Don’t be scared!’

In May 2017, he was accused of inciting a riot during a show at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion, where several people, including a security guard, were injured.

Travis was charged with Inciting a Riot, Disorderly Conduct and Endangering the Welfare of a Minor.

He was booked into the Benton County Jail, but was released 12 minutes after being booked.

Travis pleaded guilty in February 2018 to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, and paid a $7,465.31 fine.  He took the plea deal to avoid going to court. Five days before the plea deal, Kylie Jenner gave birth to their first child, Stormi.

Some reports also say that Travis paid $6,825.31 to two injured people.

Travis Scott’s mugshot

Travis has actually spoken to the media about ‘raging’ at his shows – “I always want to make it feel like it’s the WWF or some s–t. You know, raging and having fun and expressing good feelings is something I plan on doing and spreading across the globe,” he told GQ

“Travis Scott’s whole aesthetic is about rebellion,” editor-in-chief of HipHopDX Trent Clark told the AP.

“It’s not uncommon to see a lot of crowding and raging or complete wild behavior at a Travis Scott show.”

There is footage online of Travis Scott stopping a show in 2015 (seems to have been a bad year for him) because someone tried to steal his shoe.  He ordered the crowd to ‘ fuck up’ the fan who tried to take it. 

So, anyway back to Astroworld 2021.

The website for the event is still up and it contains this info about medical and security personnel:

According to the same website, the gates for the event opened on November 5 at 1pm.

Things went wrong pretty quickly after that.  Around 2pm, there is footage of hundreds of people stampeding through barricades at the VIP checkpoint. 

The event seemed to carry on as planned for the next few hours. There haven’t really been any reports of anything else happening until around 9pm that night.

The Houston Police Chief has said that he met with Travis briefly during the night, before his set.

“I met with Travis Scott and his head of security for a few moments last Friday prior to the main event,” Chief Troy Finner said.

“I expressed my concerns regarding public safety and that in my 31 years of law enforcement experience I have never seen a time with more challenges facing citizens,” including a pandemic and nationwide social tension, Chief Finner said.

“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.”

The set for Travis’ main event called ‘Utopia Mountain’ cost around $5 million dollars and took three entire days to construct.  There are lots of photos of it online, but it looks like a mountain with a tunnel-like structure, complete with pyro, lasers and risers.

Travis was due to come on around 845pm, but by then, some diehard fans had been waiting at his stage for over 8 hours.  There were metal barriers at the front, and the surge likely began around 8pm following the end of SZA’s (scissa) set. 

There is a great article by Variety that outlines a bunch of mistakes made by the event organisers – How Travis Scott’s $5 Million Solo Stage, Set Time May Have Contributed to Astroworld Festival Deaths

There was also a huge countdown clock, counting down the minutes until Travis performed.  “You have a big open space and these metal barriers that, when people run, you can’t climb over them. This was a young crowd, high fandom and a lot of intensity.”

Beginning at 8:30 p.m. and counting down to 9 p.m., the clock “hype” caused much of that running, eyewitnesses report. “The crux of the problem likely happened as the clock got close to zero,” adds the source. “Now people are going to be asking: Who knew what was going on? Were they aware that there was an ambulance call on the floor? And why didn’t they stop the set?”

Travis took to the stage at around 9pm and started performing.  He also bought Drake out on stage with him – SURPRISE! At around 9.30pm, the real crowd surge started.  The crowd “began to compress toward the front of the stage,” Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña told reporters.

This info is from abc news:

San Antonio resident Fatima Munoz, 21, described a “domino effect” that took place: “I had fell right on the floor, and that’s when everybody started tumbling down, and I tried so hard to get up,” she said on ABC News’ podcast “Start Here.” “There’s just too much people like on me, like those legit dog pile on me. I was on the floor. Nobody helped. I tried screaming for my life. I tried screaming for help.”

Apple Music was livestreaming the event and the stream showed Travis noticing someone had passed out, around halfway through his set.  He stood and told the crowd, “Somebody passed out right here,”

There are MANY videos online and viral social media posts from people who were at the event.  They all detail the hysteria and horror experienced by those in the thick of the crowd.

There is also video of Travis standing on some type of platform while security guards pull an overdosing man from the crowd and narcan him.  Travis appears to look at the commotion and then keeps performing. 

Two staffers (not sure if they worked for Travis or were festival organizers yet),  seemed to also approach Travis while he was on stage and tell him that things were going wrong.  He seemed to dismiss them and kept performing. 

At around 9.30pm, officials first got the reports of people falling injured in the crowd, according to Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña and said they “requested additional resources to the scene.”

Police Chief Troy Finner said at a press conference after the event “our people stepped up and immediately went to the producers and told them, ‘Hey, people are going down.'”

At 9.38pm, a mass casualty event was declared.  Sam Pena said  “From the time that the mass casualty incident was declared, to the first unit on scene, was two minutes when we began to make patient contact,” he said.

Witnesses describe calling out for help but being unable to be heard over the music.

‘This was not a concert, this was a fight for survival’

“Travis Scott would have a short time in between songs, and we would scream our vocal cords out, so someone could hear us but nobody did,” attendee TK Tellez said. “This year’s festival will be stuck with me forever. I’ve never seen someone die in front of my eyes. It was horrific.”

The show finally ended at around 10.10pm – slightly before it was due to wrap up.  

One concertgoer told CNN’s Rosa Flores he looked at his watch when the concert ended, and it indicated “10:13 or 10:14 p.m.”

There was confusion and panic and not much confirmed online at the time.  We saw photos of ambulances screaming away, many graphic videos online of people getting CPR in the crowd. 

All the people involved remained silent.  Nothing from Drake, Travis Scott or Astroworld.

Fairly quickly though, word did spread that day two of Astroworld had been cancelled.  

There were many online rumors at the time including children being deceased, and there were also rumors of a crazed person going around injecting people in the crowd with drugs. 

Police held a press conference in the afternoon of November 6 – the day following the tragedy.   We learned some confirmed details:

– At least 8 people had been killed during the incidents the night before.

25 people were taken to hospitals, 11 were in cardiac arrest and 13 remain hospitalized, while more than 300 were treated at a field hospital at the festival at NRG Park.

Two of the dead were teenagers and five were in their 20s, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

Around 50,000 people were in attendance, authorities said, adding that 528 police officers and 755 private security personnel had been deployed to the outdoor festival.  (Note, I wonder where the other 50k were?)

A security staff member felt a prick in his neck–one that a medical staff said resembled a prick that one would get “when someone is trying to inject” – and went “unconscious” while trying to grab someone, Finner said at the press briefing. He was later administered Narcan and revived.

There were questions about what went wrong during the event.  Lina Hidalgo, the Harris County judge, said that the city and county had worked with Live Nation, the promoter, on a site and security plan prior to the event. “And so perhaps the plans were inadequate,” she said. “Perhaps the plans were good but they weren’t followed. Perhaps it was something else entirely.”

Houston city police chief Troy Finner said his department had opened a criminal investigation by homicide and narcotics detectives.

Travis released a video statement on instagram on Saturday.  

“ Scott further responded to the tragedy in an emotional Instagram video on Saturday night, addressing criticism that he refused to stop the show after the deadly crowd crush and claiming that he wasn’t aware of “the severity of the situation.” “Anytime I could make out, you know, anything that’s going on, you know, I stop the show and, you know, help them get the help they need,” he said. He added that he’s working with authorities to “try to get to the bottom of this.” Scott continued, “I’m honestly just devastated, and I could never imagine anything like this happening.”

Kylie Jenner also released a statement:

On November 11, Travis issued a new statement

“Over the last week, Travis Scott and his team have been actively exploring routes of connection with each and every family affected by the tragedy through the appropriate liaisons. He is distraught by the situation and desperately wishes to share his condolences and provide aid to them as soon as possible, but wants to remain respectful of each family’s wishes on how they’d best like to be connected. 

To those families who would like to reach out directly to his team, please send an email to the below address where we will have a team on hand to assist.” 

Despite witness reports that there were hundreds of bodies at the Astroworld festival, the death toll currently stands at 10.

John Hilgert was a freshman at Memorial High School in Houston, Texas, according to his school district. 

“Our hearts go out to the student’s family and to his friends and our staff at Memorial. This is a terrible loss, and the entire MHS family is grieving today,” Spring Branch ISD said in a statement. “Please keep the student’s family in your thoughts and prayers as they face this tragedy. We will make counselors available to students next week to offer any help and support needed.” 

Franco Patino, 21, was a University of Dayton student, according to a campus-wide email. Patino, originally from Naperville, Illinois, was a mechanical engineering technology major with a minor in human movement biomechanics, the school said.

“Franco was a beloved friend, cousin, nephew, brother, and son,” his family said. “He was loved by so many because of the loyal, loving, selfless, protective, funny, and caring person he was. Even though he was a hardworking individual, he would always try to make time for his family and the people he cared about. We will miss the big heart Franco had and his passion for helping others. We’re glad Franco always tried to live life to the fullest and are glad to know he was the type of person that would put himself before others until the very end.”

According to CBS Chicago, Franco was attending the concert with his friend Jacob Jurinek, who also died at Astroworld.

“Jake was beloved by his family and by his seemingly countless number of friends for his contagious enthusiasm, his boundless energy, and his unwavering positive attitude,” his family said. “He was an avid fan of music, an artist, a son, a best friend to many, and a loving and beloved cousin, nephew, and grandson. Always deeply committed to his family, he was affectionately known as ‘Big Jake’ by his adoring younger cousins, a name befitting of his larger-than-life personality.”

Rudy Peña’s sister, Jennifer Peña, confirmed her brother’s death to the Laredo Morning Times. Jennifer Peña told the paper they learned just after midnight that Rudy had been taken to the hospital unconscious, and later learned he had died. 

Peña’s brother-in-law Sergio Gonzalez said they learned of his death “in the worst way.” 

“We found out around 12:30 last night from a friend of Rudy that was with him that he had just passed out,” Gonzalez told People. “It wasn’t until this afternoon that we found out he had died.”   

Mirza Danish Baig’s brother posted on Facebook that he died after he “tried to save my sister in law from these horrendous acts that were being done to her.”

“My brother was killed in this horrendous event that was managed poorly and supervised by such horrible people,” Basil Mirza Baig wrote on Facebook. “People were trampled, walked, and stomped on.”

Basil Mirza Baig said he was at the concert and “tried to save my brother.” 

“People were hitting pushing and shoving and did not care for anyones life,” he wrote. “Travis Scott provoked these people and made them do just that and more he called people to the stage to jump into the crowd and did not stop the show.”

Basil Mirza Baig described his brother as a “beautiful soul” whose “smile would light up the room and put everyone before himself.”

Brianna Rodriguez, 16, was a junior at Heights High School in Houston.

The school’s band tweeted in remembrance of Rodriguez, writing she performed with the band and was “someone who could always make anyone smile.”

After 7 of the deceased were initially identified, there was still one that had no name.   The deceased man was said to be in his 20’s 

The unknown concertgoer was described as being in his early 20s, 6-foot-2, heavy set and having short black or dark brown wavy hair. He had a slight mustache with a noticeable goatee, officials said. A cause of death has not been released.

At the time of his death, he was wearing size-11 white Nike sneakers.

The family of Axel Acosta were posting online at the same time, looking for him. 

In the post the family made, Axel was wearing the same shoes as detailed by the medical examiner.  

Two victims that were hospitalized following the incident have also since passed away.

On Monday following the concert, Travis Scott made a statement, saying that he intended to cover the costs of funerals for the deceased. 

“Travis remains in active conversations with the city of Houston, law enforcement and local first responders to respectfully and appropriately connect with the individuals and families of those involved,” the statement reads. “These are the first of many steps Travis plans on taking as a part of his personal vow to assist those affected throughout their grieving and recovery process.”

Astroworld organizers also announced that all ticketholders for the event would receive a full refund. 

Over 200 lawsuits have now been filed against Travis Scott and Live Nation.

There is a really comprehensive Rolling Stone article about some of the lawsuits:

A man named Kristian Paredes was the first to file a lawsuit (I think) and he is seeking at least $1 million from Live Nation, Scott and even Drake in one of the suits, alleging Drake joined Scott as a surprise onstage guest and “helped incite the crowd” to a level that was “out of control.”

Paredes was at the front of the general admission section, felt an “immediate push” when Scott took the stage at 9 p.m. and was “severely injured” in the “stampede” that ensued, the nine-page lawsuit states.

“For 38 minutes, Travis Scott and Drake were performing after there was already a disaster emergency declared. These particular performers should have simply stopped and been part of the solution, not increasing and throwing gasoline on the fire,” Paredes’ lawyer Thomas J. Henry tells Rolling Stone. “We believe they were negligent.”

Patrick Stennis sued Live Nation as well as Scott, the rapper’s record label Cactus Jack and the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation with claims he was “trampled, crushed and lost consciousness” when he was swallowed by the surging crowd. Stennis is now suffering physical pain, mental anguish and disability leading to medical bills and lost wages, his filing claims.

Lawyers Ben Crump and Robert and Alex Hilliard filed two negligence lawsuits for festival attendees that notably left Scott off the list of those considered at fault. In an interview Monday, Alex Hilliard said his firm was close to filing complaints for “10 to 15” other plaintiffs and expects to represent more than 100 concertgoers by Friday. He said Scott “may be named” in one or more of those as “the facts reveal themselves.”

“There will be hundreds of plaintiffs by Friday, if not thousands. I have one client who gave a stranger CPR for an hour before anybody even got to him. Obviously, by the time medical personnel got there, it was too late. He said, ‘I can heal from a broken arm, but I’ll never heal from this.’ This is such a unique, rare and unprecedented case,” Alex Hilliard told Rolling Stone.

“We understand at least nine people on site had the ability to shut the concert down and didn’t,” he added. “This is involuntary corporate manslaughter as far as we’re concerned.”

Articles about Astroworld protocols and procedures have been made public.

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

“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.”

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

Astroworld security and emergency medical response protocols filed with Harris county and obtained by the AP stated: “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.

Houston Police told the media that currently the authority to end a show is up to the production team and the entertainer.  

This protocol seems like it might be changing, in Texas at least.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that a statewide task force will look for ways to beef up security at Texas concerts.

Abbott’s task force, led by Texas Music Office Director Brendon Anthony, will be made up of safety consultants, music industry experts and law enforcement officials who are tasked with coming up with recommendations to improve concert safety.

“Live music is a source of joy, entertainment, and community for so many Texans — and the last thing concertgoers should have to worry about is their safety and security,” Abbott said in a statement.

One update that emerged on the Wednesday following the Astroworld incident was that the security guard who had been rumored to be injected and narcanned, was actually hit/punched in the back of the head.

The police chief held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to give an update on the tragedy which left eight people dead and two more fighting for their lives in intensive care.

“If you can remember, members of the medical team in the medical tent had said that a male security guard had come in and said that somebody had pricked his neck,” he said.

“We felt that it could have been something ingested. We did locate this security guard. His story’s not consistent with that.

“He says he was struck in his head; he went unconscious; he woke up in the security tent. He says that no one injected drugs into him. So we want to clear that part up.”

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