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Astroworld investigation: ‘This is about learning’

Crowded space expert Professor Chris Kemp has spoken to IQ about concert safety following the deadly crowd surge at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas.

Police have opened a criminal investigation after at least eight people, aged between 14-27, died and hundreds others were injured at the 50,000-capacity event at NRG Park on Friday (5 November). Multiple lawsuits have already been filed by Astroworld attendees.

Inquiries are expected to take “weeks if not months” to complete, and Kemp, of Mind Over Matter Consultancy, hopes the findings will go towards preventing similar tragedies in the future.

“These reports sometimes contain less than is actually needed because they tend to focus on blame, rather than support in delivery and development,” he tells IQ. “But what needs to be looked at is both the distal and proximate causations – those elements are so important for the industry to learn from – because this is about learning.”

He adds: “There are a lot of things going on at an event of that size and you have to make sure you’re mitigating risks as much as you possibly can. But I can’t cast aspersions about anything that happened to that event, because I don’t know and we don’t know. All we’re getting is snippets from the press, newspapers, TV, and remember, people like sensationalising things. We need to know the underpinning facts. And as those come out, to learn from them and take that on board.”

Kemp explains the key areas likely to be scrutinised by the authorities.

“It’s most likely going to focus on the planning of the event, the management of the event, the artist’s behaviour, the crowd behaviour,” he says. “It will focus on a range of things with those as major blocks, but also the interoperability between all the services that were there.

“We haven’t yet really got a full view from anybody about what happened. We know what the main elements are, but the overall timeline hasn’t been released yet.”

It’s about three key elements: security, safety and service

Such concert tragedies are infrequent, but not unprecedented. Eleven people died in a crush at a gig by The Who at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1979, while two people were killed at a Guns N’ Roses performance at the UK’s Monsters of Rock festival in 1988 and three people died at an AC/DC concert at The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City in 1991.

Since the turn of the century, nine people died at Pearl Jam’s 2000 headline show at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival and 21 people died and more than 650 were injured in a July 2010 crush in a tunnel that served as the sole entrance to the Love Parade festival in Duisburg, Germany.

“The occurrences themselves are fairly rare,” says Kemp. “But there are thousands of near misses. And it’s about three key elements: security, safety and service, which are things that you balance to make the event work.

“Planning, communication and management, of course, are absolutely essential in ensuring the event is fit for purpose before people come into it.”

Kemp also addressed reports that a concert-goer was going around injecting people with drugs at the Astroworld event.

“Although that was probably not a contributing factor to the disaster, I think it’s something that we need to keep our eye on because it’s been brought up from all sorts of different events, starting in UK nightclubs,” he says. “So it’s very difficult to get a handle on.”


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Lawsuits filed over Astroworld tragedy

Lawsuits have been filed over the deadly crowd surge at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas.

At least eight people, aged between 14-27, died and hundreds others injured in Friday’s (5 November) tragedy at the 50,000-capacity event at NRG Park, promoted by Live Nation. A planned second night was cancelled.

Live Nation released a statement saying it was “heartbroken for those lost and impacted”.

“We will continue working to provide as much information and assistance as possible to the local authorities as they investigate the situation,” it said.

A total of 14 lawsuits have already been filed by survivors in Houston District Court in relation to injuries sustained at the festival, according to Billboard. The first names festival headliner and founder Scott, Live Nation, individuals associated with NRG Park and Texas-based festival producer Scoremore Holdings, along with several other defendants.

A second also names Scott and Live Nation, but adds Drake, who appeared as a special guest during the headline set.

Scott made statements on his social media accounts, speaking of his devastation.

“I’m absolutely devastated by what took place,” he said in an Instagram video. “My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened.

“Anytime I can make out anything that’s going on, I stop the show and help them get the help they need. I could just not imagine the severity of the situation.”

In 2018, the rapper reportedly pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after being accused of inciting a riot at a 2017 concert in Arkansas’ Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion.

We still don’t know what caused the initial surge of the crowd

Meanwhile, Houston fire chief Sam Pena has warned the final death toll from Astroworld could rise.

“At this moment what we know is that we have eight people who have died as a result of the injuries suffered at that event,” he told MSNBC. “That number may rise because we did transport more people in critical condition, we took 11 that they were performing CPR en route to the hospital.

“A total of 23 patients were transported after the mass casualty incident was initiated, so that number, hopefully it doesn’t, but it may rise.”

Pena stressed that the cause of the “unspeakable tragedy” was still being investigated.

“We still don’t know what caused the initial surge of the crowd up towards the stage but the Houston police department is looking at video that was taken from cameras that were present there for security purposes and other reasons so that’ll be part of their investigation,” he said. “They’ll be dissecting exactly what the issues were and what caused the surge and if there was anything else that contributed to this tragedy.

“We don’t know what caused it but we had and estimated 50,000 people in that venue. It was just a matter of people trying to push towards the front and get towards the front, that’s what I anticipate, but again that will be determined after they review the film and they review the video that they have from those cameras.

“From the Houston fire department’s perspective, we’ll be looking at the layout of that venue itself and considering items as far as was there enough means of egress, what caused the inability for people to escape that situation so again we will be dissecting this thing in its entirety.”

We want to make sure that this does not happen again and we learn from this

Video footage shows Scott pausing his 75-minute set when medical emergencies became apparent.

Asked whether the show should have been halted earlier, Pena added: “That’s all going to be part of the investigation. Police with Live Nation did decide to, in essence, pull the plug when situation started to escalate.

“It was a chaotic and really tragic event but they did an outstanding job to get resources in there and try to disperse the crowd as quickly as they could. But we’re going to be looking at this thing from top to bottom because we want to make sure that this does not happen again and we learn from this.”

Pena also addressed accounts of a concert-goer injecting other people, including a security guard, with drugs.

“We did hear the same thing,” he said. “Again, we are going to wait for the medical examiner’s determination on the cause of deaths of these individuals so we’ll get a better picture as soon as the investigation progresses.”


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Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival to expand for 2021

Grammy award-nominated rapper Travis Scott has announced that his Astroworld Festival will return this year with an expanded format due to ‘overwhelming demand’.

The third edition of Astroworld Festival will take place on 5 and 6 November at NRG Park in Scott’s hometown, Houston, Texas, with a line-up curated by the artist himself.

Scott has revealed that he will be headlining Astroworld Festival 2021, which will adopt the theme ‘Open Your Eyes To A Whole New Universe’, while the full line-up will be announced closer to the time.

The previous two events have sold out before line-ups were revealed.

In 2019 the festival became the largest single-day artist-curated music festival in the country

According to Live Nation, in November 2019, the festival became the largest single-day artist-curated music festival in the country, as well as the largest music festival in Houston as the sold-out event played host to over 50,000 fans.

The festival, which celebrates hip-hop, pop music, has hosted the likes of Post Malone, Rosalia, Pharrell Williams, Da Baby, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, Playboi Carti and Megan Thee Stallion.

Two-day GA passes will be available for purchase beginning next 5 May at 10 am CT on AstroworldFest.com.

A portion of proceeds from Astroworld Festival 2021 will be donated to the festival’s official charity partner, Cactus Jack Foundation, founded by Scott.

The expansion of the festival follows Astronomical, Scott’s record-breaking in-game concert event which took place in Fortnite in April 2020 and attracted more than 12 million players.


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