Lucy Tovar traveled over 250 miles from Baton Rouge to Houston, Texas to see Travis Scott perform live at this year’s Astroworld Festival. She was one of 50,000 fans at NRG Park that day, hours after stampedes of fans tore apart the entrance gates and bypassed security guards to get a glimpse of the rapper.
The digital advertising sophomore wasn’t concerned for her safety at the start of the performance. She had already attended Astroworld once prior in 2019 and looked forward to seeing Scott again. But the crowd was different this time -- fans surged to the front of the stage, and more attendees had trouble breathing as each song passed.
“I started to panic and cry, and I couldn’t breathe,” Tovar said. “Some guy saw me, grabbed my arm and literally pulled me to the barricade.”
Bodies slammed into each other, creating waves of crushing lungs and tight areas with little oxygen, causing fans to faint and in some cases get trampled. Ten people died as a result of Astroworld on Nov. 5, with victims’ ages ranging from nine to 27. At least 25 more were hospitalized.
The annual festival, starting in 2018, was created as an ode to the defunct Six Flags Astroworld amusement park that went out of business in 2005. Scott attempted to bring the same joy to the Houston community that the original theme park brought.
Control over the event began to wane as early as when the gates opened at 2 p.m., as videos circulating social media show throngs of fans rushing through entrance gates and security officers, taking down entire metal detectors to rush towards desirable positions near the front of the stage.
As we were arriving to the Astroworld Festival at NRG Park right at 2:00, a stampede burst through the gates. Hundreds of people destroyed the VIP security entrance, bypassing the checkpoint. People were trampled. Some were detained. (Excuse any language you may hear) pic.twitter.com/d0m2rjqAAk— Mycah Hatfield (@MycahABC13) November 5, 2021
Tovar said at the start of the show, the crowding was similar to any previous festival, but that the panic set in once she heard a nearby woman scream.
“I turned around and her boyfriend had passed out, and his eyes were rolling in the back of his head,” Tovar said. “I helped her pick him up and began yelling his name and attempting to wake him up. He woke up, made eye contact with me and went back unconscious. He ended up getting over the barricade where he woke up and was fine, and this man literally got back in the crowd.”
Attempts by concertgoers to end the performance early, including screaming and waving to Scott, were unsuccessful. In one video from the event, a man and woman climbed onto the stage to tell a cameraman to stop the show to no avail.
The woman pleaded, “there is somebody dead in there!”
More and more people fell unconscious in the crowd and, if lucky, were brought to the reportedly understaffed medic tent. One tweet depicted an unconscious fan being crowd-surfed away from the front as Scott continued to hum.
Another #disturbing video- Travis Scott continues to sing as he watched a unconscious fan at #ASTROFEST #AstroWorld2021 #Festival- At least 11 killed and 300+ injured. #panic #injuries #Houston #ASTROWORLDFest #TravisScott #AstroWorld #Houston #KHOU11 pic.twitter.com/ZGH7zhCApi— Chaudhary Parvez (@ChaudharyParvez) November 6, 2021
Police declared a mass-casualty incident at 9:38 p.m., but Scott’s performance continued through 10:15 p.m. He finished his set almost 40 minutes after authorities were aware of the life-threatening situation for the crowd. Though police claimed stopping the event early would have likely caused a riot, many criticized the prediction as shortsighted.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner also initially said that a security guard was jabbed with a needle and had to be revived with naloxone, an overdose-reversing drug, leading the public to speculate that some of the casualties were caused by a roaming maniac with a needle. However, Finner later said the security guard clarified he was not injected and was instead struck in the head.
Now, Scott is facing lawsuits, along with Drake, Live Nation, NRG Energy and other potentially responsible parties regarding the seemingly inhumane and ill-prepared planning of Astroworld.
One video shows Scott pausing the show to send medics to someone in the crowd, only to ask the 50,000 attendees to “make this ground shake” a few moments later. In the background of the Apple Music Live feed, screams for help can be heard while Scott pauses the performance. Soon after the ambulance cart arrived, though, some fans climbed on top of the vehicle to dance while paramedics treated the injured person.
Another video- #Disturbing video shows people #jumping on top of the police personal cars while they were trying to get #unconscious people out of the #crowd.#Houston #ASTROWORLDFest #TravisScott #AstroWorld #music #festival #Houston#KHOU11 pic.twitter.com/tubnfQIVPS— Chaudhary Parvez (@ChaudharyParvez) November 6, 2021
The culpability of Scott, the organizers and the authorities are still up in the air due to ongoing investigations, but Scott’s history of promoting aggressive live events has now also fallen under scrutiny. His “rager” culture garnered him a reputation for being an electric live performer who creates chaotic scenes at each performance.
Crowd surfing, mosh pits and diving into crowds create dangerous, adrenaline-filled environments for audiences that can result in injuries. At one of Scott's 2017 concert in New York City, a then 23-year-old fan named Kyle Green became paralyzed after being pushed from a third-floor balcony, according to multiple news reports.
Scott later boasted about his rowdy reputation with his song, “STARGAZING,” off his 2018 “ASTROWORLD” album, which includes the line, “And it ain't a mosh pit if ain't no injuries.”
In one lawsuit from New Orleans residents Brandon Nguyen and Nhung Tran, their attorney said, “Promoters and performers need to realize that lives are at stake when basic crowd management and security measures are not in place and followed.”
In another suit, attorneys said the concert was built to generate profit at the expense of safety by failing "to properly plan and conduct the concert in a safe manner." Also mentioning that because Scott promoted violence, ten people “lost their lives and scores of others were injured at what was supposed to be a night of fun.”
Scott uploaded an apology video on Instagram two days after the event, in which he vowed to do all he could to help the victims. He has also partnered with BetterHelp to provide one month of free therapy to those who attended. Both the apology and partnership became another subject of widespread criticism for the lax response to such a traumatic night. As for the concertgoers, some had no clue their festival experience would come to this conclusion as they watched the Houston native perform.
“I enjoyed my time there in the moment, now I honestly feel like I’ve been hit by a truck and am feeling guilty,” Tovar said.