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Investigation continues into Astroworld crowd surge that killed at least 8 people


There's an ongoing investigation into just what happened at a Houston music festival Friday night, when a stampede resulted in at least eight deaths and multiple injuries. Houston Public Media's Sara Willa Ernst has this report. And a note, listeners may find some of these details disturbing.

SARA WILLA ERNST, BYLINE: When Astroworld, a music festival hosted by Houston rapper Travis Scott, was canceled at the end of its first day, rumors started cropping up on social media of what exactly happened and theories of how so many people got hurt.


SYLVESTER TURNER: Let me caution people not to buy into the rumors, OK?

ERNST: Mayor Sylvester Turner spoke at a press conference close to NRG Stadium yesterday.


TURNER: It is way too preliminary now to draw any conclusions, but we are not taking anything off the table. This remains and will be a very active investigation.

ERNST: But Houston Police Chief Troy Finner addressed one rumor, dealing with nonconsensual drug injections.


TROY FINNER: We do have a report of a security officer, and he felt a prick in his neck. When he was examined, he went unconscious. They administered Narcan. He was revived, and the medical staff did notice a prick that was similar to a prick that you would get if somebody's trying to inject.

ERNST: Lina Hidalgo, who leads Harris County, which includes Houston, says she's calling for an objective, independent investigation that will evaluate the festival's security and site plans.


LINA HIDALGO: Perhaps the plans were inadequate. Perhaps the plans were good. But they weren't followed. Perhaps it was something else entirely. The families of those who died and everybody affected deserve answers.

ERNST: Hidalgo says crowd control was a known problem during Astroworld 2019, when some concertgoers tried to breach the barricades. And more was done this year to ensure a safe concert. Officials said there were more city police officers. Live Nation hired more private security, and more space was added to the festival grounds. One festivalgoer, Sophia Gonzalez (ph), put some of the blame on the fans.

SOPHIA GONZALEZ: In a mosh pit, the proper etiquette is you see someone fall, and you pick them back up. And in this crowd, people were dropping like flies. From what I have heard from my other friends, like, they were seeing people get trampled - like, passing out and people just jumping on top of them. Like, no one was willing to help anybody.

ERNST: Once the headliner came out, Gonzalez started to get scared. She got pushed around to the point that the crowd lifted her up off the ground.

GONZALEZ: My boyfriend and I were like, we cannot stay in this crowd. We are going to pass out. We both have heart problems. We are so lucky to be alive right now.

ERNST: Nineteen-year-old Luke MacMahan (ph) was also at the festival.

LUKE MACMAHAN: We were so squished next to each other, there was no way that you were moving. It was more side-to-side or jumping up and down, you know? And people were - they were literally punching each other in the face in the mosh pit.

ERNST: He was able to avoid getting hurt, but he witnessed one concertgoer that police failed to resuscitate.

MACMAHAN: It was sad. I've never seen, like, a real, like, dead body, like - or someone die, like, right in front of me.

ERNST: Like MacMahan, many at the concert were young people in their teens and 20s. For NPR News, I'm Sara Willa Ernst in Houston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sara Willa Ernst | Houston Public Media