A stampede of fans surging toward the stage during rapper Travis Scott’s Astroworld music festival in Houston killed at least eight people and injured dozens more as panic rippled through the crowd of largely young concertgoers, according to officials.
City Police Chief Troy Finner said on Saturday that his department has opened a criminal investigation following unconfirmed reports that someone in the audience “was injecting other people with drugs”.
The disaster unfolded at NRG Park at around 9:30pm on Friday during the headline performance by Scott, a Grammy-nominated singer and producer, following what police and members of the crowd described as an escalation of unruly behavior throughout the day.
As fans in the sold-out audience of about 50,000 pressed toward the stage, people began to fall unconscious, some apparently suffering cardiac arrest or other medical issues, officials told reporters outside the venue.
Minutes later the chaos was declared a “mass casualty incident”.
“It happened all at once. It seemed like it just happened … over the course of just a few minutes,” said Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite, who was at the front of the event when the situation began.
Satterwhite said he immediately met with promoters and they agreed to halt the show. Officials said the concert was brought to an end by 10:10pm.
Finner said that among the “narratives” under review by police were reports suggesting “some individual was injecting other people with drugs”.
One report involved a security officer “who felt a prick in his neck” as he was trying to restrain or grab someone and then fell unconscious, only to be revived with a dose of the opioid antidote naloxone, Finner said, citing an account from medical personnel who treated the officer.
Finner said the medical staff also noticed what appeared to be a needle mark on the officer’s neck.
It was not clear whether authorities suspected such an episode played a role in the crowd surge, but Finner said, “we’re going to get down to the bottom of it”.
2Police were awaiting autopsies to determine the causes of death, but said some victims were trampled. Aljazeera News