A music festival ended in chaos and tragedy this weekend. At the 2021 Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas, eight people died and hundreds more were injured in a chaotic wave of crowds during headliner Travis Scott’s performance on Friday night, as the New York Times reports.
At this time, little is known for sure about what exactly happened, and a formal investigation is still in its early stages. Media reports cover a wide variety of first-hand accounts, authoritative statements and speculation about the myriad of contributing factors that led to the loss of life, from potential event planning failures to unruly members of the community. the crowd who may have jostled the scene.
Some key questions asked by Houston officials, bereaved relatives, concert attendees, and investigators are whether the event had enough staff to handle security and medical care, whether the venue was overcapacity, how hosts may not have been successful in controlling the crowd, and why concert promoter Live Nation (and Scott) let the show go on for so long (around 40 minutes) after the problems started, the New York Times reports. (Lawsuits have been filed against festival organizers, including Scott and Live Nation, NPR reports.)
What is clear is that the individuals were physically restrained as the crowd of at least 50,000 people spiraled out of control, resulting in what is known as a crowd crush or crowd wave – the overwhelming physical force generated by a large crowd moving in a certain direction. While all the causes of injury and death are not yet clear, there are likely several. At least some people were injured by falling and stomping on the ground, according to the Times. Some people, officials said, appeared to faint from a heart attack or other medical event, according to NPR. Meanwhile, attorney Steve Adelman, vice president of the Event Safety Alliance, an advocacy organization, told the Times that compressive asphyxia is the most common cause of injury and death in crowds. It happens when people in a crowd or a stampede are crowded so densely that their airways are narrowed. People have trouble getting enough oxygen, fall unconscious and collapse. Some first-hand accounts shared on social media describe a crowd crush like this, like NPR reports.
The tragedy of the Astroworld festival is not the first of its kind: many disasters of a similar nature have already occurred among large and uncontrolled crowds, such as Reuters reports. « History has taught us that catastrophic things can happen when large groups of people come together, » paramedic Ginger Locke, associate professor of the EMS (emergency medical services) professions at Austin Community College and host of the Doctors mindset podcast, previously told SELF.
In addition to the many variables on the ground that create dangerous conditions to begin with, once an uncertain, very stressful or risky situation arises, it can trigger stress reactions in people, causing panic and then making the situation even worse. that people are trying to get to safety. And when you have a crowd of thousands of people whose stress reactions are collectively activated, it’s easy for the situation to get out of hand and become more and more dangerous. “This is where you see unnecessary chaos,” Locke says. « People push and claw in crowds, people get trampled or trampled. »