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Safety taskforce formed after Astroworld tragedy

Group set to meet to discuss enhancing security at music events, as Houston police chief gives update on inquiries into 5 November tragedy

By James Hanley on 11 Nov 2021

Travis Scott


image © Frank Schwichtenberg

A taskforce on concert safety has been formed in the US in the wake of last weekend’s Astroworld Festival tragedy in Houston.

Announced by Texas governor Greg Abbott, the Texas Task Force On Concert Safety will be led by Texas Music Office director Brendon Anthony.

Roundtable discussions will be held to “analyse concert safety and develop ways to enhance security at live music events” in the state, which will then form the basis of a report of recommendations and strategies.

“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,” says Abbott. “To ensure that the tragedy that occurred at the Astroworld Festival never happens again in the Lone Star State, I am forming the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety.

“From crowd control strategies to security measures to addressing controlled substances, this task force will develop meaningful solutions that will keep Texans safe while maximising the joy of live music events. I thank the members of this taskforce for coming together to work on this important issue.”

Alongside live music figures, the taskforce will consist of representatives from Texas Music Office, Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Municipal Police Association, Texas Police Chiefs Association, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters.

Investigations are ongoing into the Live Nation and Scoremore-promoted event at NRG Park on 5 November. Eight people died and hundreds others were injured after a crowd surge during co-founder Travis Scott’s headline set. A nine-year-old boy is reportedly in a medically-induced coma due to injuries sustained, while a 22-year-old student has been declared brain dead.

Those who need to be held accountable will be held accountable

Houston police chief Troy Finner gave an update on proceedings at a news conference held yesterday (10 November).

“Our department owe it to those families to look at every aspect – how [and] why it happened,” he said. “We owe it to our city, we owe it to our nation and we have to learn lessons from this. Those who need to be held accountable will be held accountable.”

On whether he expected the inquiries to result in criminal charges, Finner replied: “I’m not sure and I’m not comfortable with saying that. I will tell you that we’re not going to leave any stones unturned.” 

Finner confirmed he met with Scott prior to the festival began to discuss safety concerns, but said he had “no reason to believe it wasn’t going to be safe”.

“I’m the kind of chief that I meet with people whenever I can and that includes him,” he added. “We had a very respectful few minute conversation on my concerns.”

While a “mass casualty incident” was triggered at 9.38pm, Scott continued performing until completing his headline set at around 10.15pm. Asked who had the “ultimate jurisdiction” to shut down the festival, Finner replied it had to be a group decision. 

“Ultimate authority to end the show is with production and the entertainer and that should be through communication with public safety officials,” he elaborated.

Investigations should start proceeding over finger-pointing

Some fans had stormed the entrance gates on the morning of the event, which Finner suggested was triggered by a rush for the “very sought after merchandise” from the merch stands. “That’s what caused some of the kids rushing towards that and breaking down barriers,” he said. “Once they breached, we quickly got that under control and we didn’t have any major injuries so we went on with the show.”

Finner also corrected earlier claims that a security guard had been rendered unconscious after being injected with drugs by a festival-goer.

“We did locate that security guard, his story’s not consistent with that,” clarified Finner. “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 in him so we want to clear that part up.”

Meanwhile, Scott’s lawyer Edwin F McPherson has accused the authorities of putting out “inconsistent messages” in relation to the tragedy.

“Houston Police chief Troy Finner was quoted in the New York Times as saying ‘You cannot just close when you got 50,000 and over 50,000 individuals. We have to worry about rioting, riots, when you have a group that’s that young,’ ” McPherson told People. “Yet, just a short time later, Chief Finner states the responsibility to stop the show falls on Travis.

“It was reported that the operations plan designated that only the festival director and executive producers have authority to stop the show, neither of which is part of Travis’s crew. This also runs afoul of HPD’s own previous actions when it shut down the power and sound at this very festival when the performance ran over five minutes back in 2019.

“Investigations should start proceeding over finger-pointing so that together, we can identify exactly what transpired and how we can prevent anything like this from happening again.”

 


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