Houston Music Festival crash kills at least eight, injures many

(Adds details on Scott, social media images)

November 6 (Reuters) – At least eight people were killed and many injured in a crash when fans rushed to the stage on the opening night of the Astroworld music festival on Friday in Houston, officials said .

Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña confirmed the casualty figures at an early morning press conference outside NRG Park.

Peña said that around 9 p.m., the crowd that had gathered for a performance by popular rapper Travis Scott started pushing towards the front of the stage, causing panic and injury.

People started to black out and the chaos escalated until 9:38 p.m. when a “mass incident” was triggered, he said.

Firefighters transported 17 people to hospitals, and 11 of them were in cardiac arrest.

The cause of the disaster was not yet clear.

“I think it’s very important that neither of us speculate. Nobody has all the answers tonight,” Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said. “If you don’t have the facts, if you don’t have the evidence, I’m not going to speak against it. We have injured families here.”

Finner added that the organizers and Scott were both cooperating with the police.

Live Nation, the event’s organizer, and Astroworld did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It happened all of a sudden. It looked like it just happened … within a few minutes,” said Houston Deputy Police Chief Larry Satterwhite.

“Suddenly we had several people on the ground experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode,” he added.

FANS IN DISTRESS

The Houston Chronicle said Scott stopped several times during his 75-minute performance when he spotted distressed fans near the front of the stage.

He asked security to make sure they were okay and to help them out of the crowd. Emergency vehicles, flashing lights and alarms, drove through the crowd on several occasions.

Firefighters said on Twitter that a regrouping center had been set up for families who had not heard from loved ones at the festival.

A crowd of 50,000 attended the two-day event, said Peña. The second day of the festival has been canceled.

Video clips shared on social media early on Saturday showed police officers performing CPR on multiple people even as music blared in the background.

In one of those clips, an ambulance was seen pulling over as the crowd continued to swing their arms to the beat of the music.

Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the images.

“(This is) obviously a very, extremely tragic night. Our hearts are broken,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said.

“Tonight, however, the focus must be on the families and the lives we have lost. Many of them are extremely young, tragically young,” she added.

Houston-born Scott is a rap artist who rose to prominence in the early 2010s for his unique vocal style. Astroworld is also the eponymous name of his critically acclaimed third studio album released in 2018.

He and Kylie Jenner of the famous Kardashians have a daughter. (Reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru Writing by Frances Kerry Editing by Giles Elgood) ((Bhargav.Acharya@thomsonreuters.com;)) Tags: TEXAS SECURITY / (UPDATE 4, PIX, TV)

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