At least eight people were killed and dozens more were injured at a music festival in Houston on Friday night after a large crowd began pushing toward the front of the stage, the city’s fire chief said at a news conference.
The crowd surge, during a performance by the rapper Travis Scott, “caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries,” said the Houston fire chief, Samuel Peña.
The concert was part of the Astroworld music festival, a two-day event that began on Friday.
About 50,000 people were there on Friday night, according to the Fire Department.
“It was like hell,” said Nick Johnson, 17, who still had his concert bracelet on as he spoke Saturday morning. “Everybody was just in the back, trying to rush to the front.”
In a statement posted on Twitter, Scott said that the Houston Police Department had his “total support” as it investigated the deaths. “My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival,” he wrote. “I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need.”
On Instagram, the event organizers said that they were “supporting local officials however we can” and that the second day of the festival had been canceled.
Twenty-three people were taken to nearby hospitals by emergency responders, Chief Peña said, adding that of those patients, 11 were in cardiac arrest.
Over 300 people were treated at a “field hospital” at the site, he said.
The exact causes of death will be determined by the medical examiner, who is investigating the incident, Chief Peña said.
Chief Troy Finner of the Houston Police Department said that many details about the disaster were still unclear, including what had caused the crowd to surge forward.
Scott’s girlfriend Kylie Jenner, who attended the event, was blasted online for posting a clip of an ambulance tending to the injured and dead as the chaos unfolded.
“It happened all at once,” Larry Satterwhite, the executive assistant chief of the Houston police, said at the news conference. He said that at one point, several people in the crowd fell to the ground and began experiencing what he called a medical episode.
The company organizing the festival, Live Nation, agreed to stop the performance early in the interest of public safety, Chief Satterwhite said.
Similarly deadly episodes have unfolded in music venues all around the world, during performances of all genres of music — electronic, rock, bubble gum pop.
Like some of those performances, Friday’s event was “hectic from the beginning,” according to one concertgoer, Neema Djavadzadeh.
“I got there around 3 and saw people already struggling to stand straight,” she said on Saturday. “There was a lot of mob mentality going on, people willing to do whatever to be in line for merch, food, shows, you name it. A lot of fights broke out throughout the day.”
“Travis Scott, he took pauses to point at the crowd to say, like, ‘Go help them — they’re passed out,’” Angel Rodriguez, a concertgoer, said on Saturday morning. “He did it like three times. He pointed to the area where it was and said for everybody in the area to go help them and bring them to the front.”