The latest on the deadly Astroworld crowd surge

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 7:31 PM ET, Tue November 9, 2021
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7:16 p.m. ET, November 9, 2021

Cell service did not work at Astroworld, attendee says

From CNN’s Kay Jones

A man who says he was at the Travis Scott show at the Astroworld Festival on Friday told the Houston City Council that cell service didn’t work during the event.

The man appeared during the public comments period Tuesday afternoon in front of the city council members and Mayor Sylvester Turner. He said he couldn’t text his friends who were standing just feet away from him because the cell service was so bad.

He also said he was surprised, since so many tech companies were at the festival to showcase their new and innovative products. 

He said he had worked festivals in the past and had “never seen that much unpreparedness.” He told council members he feels like things “could have been prevented if the right measures had been taken.”

Some background: The Friday night crowd at the sold-out Astroworld Festival was so tightly packed that when audience members were pushed toward the stage, some told CNN, they were crushed to the point that they couldn't breathe and passed out.

Concertgoers described the event as traumatizing, with many witnesses saying they saw lifeless bodies being trampled amid the chaos. Those who survived had to fight their way out of the crowd as the music continued.

You can read more about the event here.

4:32 p.m. ET, November 9, 2021

Astroworld had more protocols for "Covid than they had for crowd control," former MTV reporter says

From CNN's Leinz Vales

As officials continue to investigate Friday's deadly crowd surge at the Astroworld music festival in Houston, Texas, a Hip-Hop journalist suggested the organizers were more focused on Covid-19 safety measures than crowd control. 

“Safety has been an issue for Travis Scott shows even at this particular concert,” Brian “B. Dot” Miller, a former MTV correspondent, said about the Astroworld crush.

“If you go on the website, they have protocols more so on Covid than they had for crowd control,” Miller added.

Scott concerts are known for being raucous and rowdy. His past concerts resulted in some injuries to fans and officials there for security and two arrests for the rapper.

Miller went on to defend Scott, saying that the artist is remorseful and is taking accountability for what happened at the festival.

“I think that it is unfair to just single out Travis Scott's shows,” Miller said. “Any genre, whether rock and roll or these heavy metal concerts, it is kind of the same atmosphere. But at a Travis Scott show, you kind of know what to expect when you go there.”

Some background: A detailed operations plan for the Astroworld music festival in Houston didn't include a specific contingency for a surging crowd incident despite three people being trampled and hospitalized at the same festival in 2019.

Eight people in the crowd of more than 50,000 died Friday night after a crowd surge, authorities said.

You can read more about what Astroworld's safety plans did and didn't include here.

3:37 p.m. ET, November 9, 2021

Houston firefighters union complains about communications with private medics at Astroworld concert

From CNN's Rosa Flores and Victor Blackwell 

Houston firefighters stationed outside the Astroworld concert venue Friday night were not in radio communications with emergency medical providers hired by the concert organizers as the deadly crowd swell unfolded, the city’s fire chief told CNN Tuesday.

According to the president of the city’s firefighter union, the Houston Fire Department officials on standby nearby the venue had asked concert organizers for a radio to communicate with ParaDocs, the emergency medical providers, but were only provided with cellphone numbers.

At least 528 Houston Police officers were inside the venue as well as 755 private security personnel and members of the ParaDocs medical team, CNN has previously reported.

Patrick M. “Marty” Lancton, the president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, said that cellphones are not a reliable communication method during emergencies, given potential signal weakness during events involving large gatherings.

“Seconds matter, minutes matter in emergencies,” Lancton told CNN.

The city’s fire department had set up outside the venue as a proactive measure and was in radio communication with the Houston Police Department, according to Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Peña.

"We were in direct communications with the Houston Police Department, and we were in communications with the Harris County Emergency Corps, which was providing some of the transport units for that event," Peña told CNN's Victor Blackwell on CNN Newsroom.

"We were also in phone communication with ParaDocs, which was the private company providing the medical component. There was a lot of communication, a lot of chatter and as you can expect in an incident that gets complex, there's a lot of radio communication. Was it challenging? It was at times, but we were able to overcome and deploy resources efficiently when the need arose," Peña said.

Pressed by Blackwell on whether the fire department was in communication with the concert organizers during the event, Peña said they were not.

"No, on scene we did not have direct communications with those organizers," Peña said.

As the mass casualty event unfolded, the fire department surged its resources into the crowd, eventually transporting 12 “very critical” victims, in many cases with CPR in progress.

“It was not a 911 call but our own leadership that recognized that resources were getting overwhelmed, deployed a task force of 11 ambulances, later escalating to a mass casualty incident and getting an additional 11 ambulances to that location,” Assistant Fire Chief Ruy Lozano told CNN earlier Tuesday.

CNN has reached out to ParaDocs for comment.

3:21 p.m. ET, November 9, 2021

Families of Astroworld victims deserve answers, Houston Fire chief says

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña said his agency would fully cooperate with the Houston Police Department's investigation into the Astroworld tragedy because the families of the victims deserve answers.

"We will be cooperating fully in terms of our resources and what we did in that operation, everything will be turned over to Houston Police Department so they can conduct a fair, thorough investigation," Peña told CNN.

"Look, we owe it to these families and it's the right thing to do for everybody involved," he continued.

Peña went on to say that while he has full confidence in the investigation being lead by Houston Police, he would also cooperate with an outside probe into the concert crowd surge that killed eight people and injured many more.

"If there is another agency that is approved to come in and do the investigation, I mean, if you're asking me my opinion, I don't know that that would be a bad thing," he said.

"The community deserves [answers] and certainly the families that were impacted by this tragedy deserve that," he said. 

3:44 p.m. ET, November 9, 2021

Houston mayor releases copies of city permits filed for Astroworld Festival

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Tuesday released all permits filed with the city for this year's Astroworld Festival.

The mayor said he was making the documents available to the public "in the interest of transparency and amid great public interest" in the incident that left eight people dead and many more injured.

The permits and email messages provided were from the Mayor's Office of Special Events, Houston Health Department, and the Houston Fire Department. "The list of permits is not exhaustive, as some [permits] were filed with Harris County," said Turner in a statement.

According to Turner, the safety plan for the festival "would be filed by the event producer with the property owners," which in this case, falls under Harris County jurisdiction.

Among the city permits approved for the event was a request from an NRG Park official for street closures around the venue, citing issues with the event in years past.

According to an email from NRG park to city officials, “during the festivals in 2018 and 2019 there were a lot of transgressions on the Main Street side of the yellow lot. Those included destroying property and various acts of violence.”

Permits were approved for food vendors, pyrotechnics and an occupant safety intervention application that lists inspectors assigned to specific stages and throughout the weekend. In the HFD application, the type of enforcement needed for the event is listed as "Stage Standby, Crowd Watch." 

"I continue to pray for the families of those who have died, and on behalf of the City, I send my best wishes to those who are recovering," Turner said.

 

11:29 a.m. ET, November 9, 2021

Texas fire official explains how letting Travis Scott know what was happening could have helped

From CNN’s Claudia Dominguez

Houston Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Ruy Lozano said that letting Travis Scott know what the situation was could have helped, since he had “the largest microphone in the venue."

In an interview with CNN Tuesday, Lozano mirrored what Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said previously of the Astroworld incident. 

“I agree with the fire chief, letting the artist know the situation and saying that he has the largest microphone in the venue, it may have helped,” Lozano said. 

While Lozano added he could not “definitely say” if it would have changed the outcome, having the artist “involved” could have made a difference.

“Because the concentration was up against the stage, having that large microphone, explaining to the crowd and hopefully, and that is hope, that the crowd would listen," he said.

Lozano said a way to do things differently in the future is to hold concerts in a “traditional brick-and-mortar venue” which keeps the crowds compartmentalized and doesn’t allow for someone at the back of the venue to surge to the front of the venue.

11:11 a.m. ET, November 9, 2021

At least 18 lawsuits related to the festival have been filed 

From CNN's Travis Caldwell and Rosa Flores

At least 18 lawsuits related to the Astroworld festival had been filed by Monday evening in Harris County District Court in Texas.

Event organizer Live Nation Entertainment was named as a defendant in all but one of the suits, while Travis Scott was named in most. Other people and organizations involved in the concert, including NRG Stadium as well as actor and musician Drake, were named in at least one of the suits.

"The injuries have had a serious effect on the Plaintiff's health and well-being. Some of the effects are permanent and will abide with the Plaintiff for a long time into the future, if not for his entire life," one of the lawsuits stated.

Other lawsuits allege serious injuries from being "trampled" during the crowd crush as well as "emotional distress."

The lawsuit in which Drake is named accuses him of helping to incite the crowd as the "surprise guest" alongside Scott, both of whom stayed on stage as "the crowd became out of control," the suit says.

Drake posted Monday on social media: "My heart is broken for the families and friends of those who lost their lives and for anyone who is suffering. I will continue to pray for all of them, and will be of service in any way I can."

Scott tweeted on Saturday: "I'm absolutely devastated by what took place last night. My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival."

NRG told CNN in a statement it is unable to comment at this time. CNN has reached out to Scott, Live Nation and others named in the suits.

9:58 a.m. ET, November 9, 2021

3 people injured at Astroworld Festival remain hospitalized

From CNN’s Rosa Flores

Three people who were injured at the Astroworld Festival over the weekend are still in the hospital, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña told CNN. Two of those people are in critical condition.

Eight people were killed and dozens more were injured at the Astroworld Festival in Houston on Friday night.

One of those severely hurt Friday was a 9-year-old boy who's in a medically induced coma, his grandfather said.

11:28 a.m. ET, November 9, 2021

Drake speaks out on "devastating" Astroworld tragedy

From CNN's Chloe Melas

Drake in Long Beach, California, on October 30, 2021.
Drake in Long Beach, California, on October 30, 2021. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Drake is speaking out for the first time since the Astroworld Festival in Houston which resulted in the deaths of eight concertgoers. 

He took to Instagram and wrote, "I've spent the past few days trying to wrap my mind around this devastating tragedy. I hate resorting to this platform to express an emotion as delicate as grief but this is where I find myself," he wrote.

"My heart is broken for the families and friends of those who lost their lives and for anyone who is suffering. I will continue to pray for all of them, and will be of service in any way I can. May God be with you all."

Drake had performed at the festival on Friday, which over 50,000 fans attended.

Travis Scott, the music festival's founder, said on Monday that he will cover all funeral costs for the eight victims who died. Separately, organizers of Astroworld will provide a full refund to all ticket holders – both those who attended Friday and those who held tickets for Saturday's canceled events.

Several individuals who were injured at the event are still in the hospital, including a 9-year-old boy who is currently in a medically-induced coma, his family says.