The worst of the incident began around 9:15 p.m. when the crowd of around 50,000 spectators began to move to the front of the stage, according to Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña. “The crowd started to compress towards the front of the stage and people started to panic,” said Peña.
The view from SkyEye on Friday night showed intense police and firefighting activity in the event area as organizers ended it early. The organizers, rapper Travis Scott and LiveNation, shut down the show when it was obvious several people had been injured, according to Houston Police Chief Troy Finner.
While the deadliest moments occurred after 9:30 p.m., Peña said more than 300 patients in total had been treated at a field hospital since the start of the event, including people injured during the worst times. Although the names and ages of the victims are not known, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said one of those involved was 10 years old.
Houston firefighters and Harris County medics transported 23 people to hospitals, 17 of those patients taken at worst, according to Peña, who also said CPR should be performed on 11 of the victims . HFD had 55 units in service for the festival, Peña said.
Festival founder Travis Scott, rapper and Missouri City native, was joined on stage by Drake in a surprise appearance as the crowd poured in.
HPD executive deputy chief Larry Satterwhite was on duty at the festival along with 367 police officers and 241 security guards. He gave his first-hand testimony at an early morning press conference.
“Once we started having a lot of casualties, they started CPR on multiple people, and it happened at the same time,” Satterwhite said. “It looks like it happened in just a few minutes. Suddenly we had several people on the ground going through some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode. “
Medical transports were already in the park for the multi-day festival, but staff were quickly overwhelmed with injuries, authorities said.
Investigators were dispatched to hospitals on Saturday morning to try to identify the victims. The Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office will determine how the eight people died.
The rest of the scheduled weekend performances have been canceled and the area is now a crime scene as investigators work to find out what exactly happened.
“At one point, the show was shut down when the crowds were pouring in,” Finner said, noting that the promoters of the event were cooperating with investigators.
WATCH: City and county leaders provide update on incident with mass casualties at Astroworld festivalThe cause of the deaths or injuries was not yet clear. Finner early Saturday rejected any early speculation about the multiple deaths.
“There are a lot of rumors going around,” Finner said. “We have injured families here. “
A central meeting center was set up at 8686 Kirby Drive near the South Loop of the Wyndham Houston hotel for family members to connect with loved ones who may have attended the festival. The venue for the meeting is staffed by Houston Police, Houston Fire Department and advisers, authorities said. City leaders urged family members to visit the venue if they have not been in contact with relatives who attended the concert.
“If you’re a parent, (and your) family member was at this event and you haven’t spoken to that person, we have units available to help you,” Finner said.
Authorities urged relatives not to attempt to reach the meeting place by phone and said they should come in person.
“I don’t want them calling the hotel,” Finner said. “If you can’t find your kids, this is where you need to go. “
While it was too early to know whether the deaths or injuries were the result of criminal activity, Finner said his department was investigating all possibilities.
“Until we figure out what happened, what caused the surge, we don’t know,” Finner said. “We will find out. Is there something criminal? We do not know. “
The fatal incident came hours after a massive crowd stormed the perimeter of NRG Park, creating a chaotic situation for security and event personnel. Finner said the two events were unrelated.
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Several fans were trampled on Friday afternoon as hundreds rushed into the event’s perimeter, knocking down metal detectors and a security checkpoint. It was still not clear on Saturday whether anyone suffered serious injuries in the previous incident.
WATCH: Crowds pass security checkpoint at Astroworld festival
SEE ALSO: Here’s who will be at Astroworld Fest this weekend
ABC13 reporter Mycah Hatfield was near the entrance on Friday afternoon as the crowds approached, and said security staff were able to pull some people away from the entrance before the crowd walked through the doors.
The 100,000 tickets for the event sold out within an hour of going on sale in May.
Travis Scott, the popular rapper and organizer, started the Astroworld Festival in 2018. Like most other big events, it was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
WATCH: Travis Scott and Drake perform Friday night at the Astroworld 2021 festival where 8 people have died and hundreds have been injured
ABC13 has contacted Live Nation Entertainment, the festival promoter and representatives of Travis Scott. We will keep you posted as soon as we hear from them.
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