Everything We Know About The AstroWorld Tragedy

The world was in shock when reports about a deathly crowd surge surfaced on November 5, 2021. At rapper Travis Scott's highly anticipated AstroWorld Festival in Houston, Texas, unspeakable tragedy occurred when thousands of concertgoers, tightly packed into the venue, began to trample over one another. Chaos ensued, and the concert did not stop despite cries from the audience. The horrific state of affairs resulted in a number of deaths and hundreds of injuries. To say that both fans and news spectators alike were stunned by the tragic accident is a grave understatement, and, as time goes on, more and more information is being revealed regarding the evening in question.

Scott, of course, is the mastermind behind hit songs such as "Sicko Mode" and "Stargazing," and his once-dedicated swarm of fans engaged and supported his oftentimes chaotic and rave-like behavior on stage. His legions of fans helped the star curate his AstroWorld Festival starting in 2018 — each year would feature Scott alongside well-known performers including Lil Wayne, Post Malone, Gucci Mane, and Drake. Of course, the festival is now synonymous with the tragic deaths that occurred in 2021. Here is everything we know about the AstroWorld tragedy.

Travis Scott's concerts had a history of unmitigated violence

Before we uncover what happened at the 2021 AstroWorld Festival, it's important to revisit some of Travis Scott's previous performances for some background. As characterized by BuzzFeed News, Scott is not only known for leading chaotic crowds, but he has faced legal consequences. In 2015, Scott was arrested on charges of reckless conduct after performing for just a few minutes at Chicago's Lollapalooza festival.

Two years later, in 2017, Scott faced accusations of inciting riot behavior during a concert in Arkansas. BuzzFeed News reported that, at said-concert, Scott allegedly told fans to "push past security." The performance resulted in a number of injuries, and the rapper eventually pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct. Howard Hershenhorn, a lawyer who has represented a Scott concertgoer who was partially paralyzed as a result of his sustained injuries, told BuzzFeed News that the disorderly and deadly occurrence at the AstroWorld Festival was the latest in a string of reckless performances by Scott. "His song lyrics encourage violence and injury at his concerts," Hershenhorn said, singling out the lyrics from "Stargazing" that read, "And it ain't a mosh pit if it ain't no injuries / I got 'em stage diving out the nosebleeds."

Chaos began in the early hours of the AstroWorld Festival

While many of us now know in some detail the chaos that ensued once Travis Scott started performing on November 5, 2021, some may not have realized that the festival was actually in disarray earlier in the day. As noted by KTLA, approximately 50,000 people were in attendance at the sold-out AstroWorld Festival, and, as such, foreshadowing of disorderly conduct was in full effect when the gates first opened. For example, so many people were trying to enter the Houston, Texas, venue that metal detectors "were toppled" as a result of the rush. Both police on horseback and venue security guards admittedly "struggled to keep up" with the crowd.

Neema Djavadzadeh, a concertgoer, told The New York Times that the entire venue was "hectic from the beginning," bolstering the notion of the concert being too crowded, with not enough protocols in place to handle the crowd. "There was a lot of mob mentality going on, people willing to do whatever to be in line for merch, food, shows, you name it. A lot of fights broke out throughout the day," Djavadzadeh shared.

Thousands were in attendance at AstroWorld without wristbands, compromising safety

Music festivals are known for dense crowds, spilled beer, and overall exhaustion, but not often are they associated with mob-like numbers. Travis Scott's AstroWorld Festival turned deadly, but before the concert escalated to that point, a number of factors played into the chaos. As aforementioned, the venue itself was "hectic," and, as KTLA noted, the number of people in attendance was greater than the number actually allowed. When fans entered the venue, many "made a beeline" for the stage designated for Scott — while the festival featured other artists, many (if not most) concertgoers came to see him.

In the time between gates opening and the headliner starting, some 5,000 additional concertgoers — without festival wristbands — broke into the venue, adding to the disarray that has now become associated with the festival. KTLA detailed that the non-ticketed members of the audience "were believed to have breached barricades, jumped fences and even used bolt cutters" to attend the AstroWorld Festival. By 8:30 p.m. that evening, the already tightly-packed crowd "grew denser and denser," leading to the first instance of danger amongst the concertgoers.

The deadly surge at AstroWorld began to escalate around 8:30 p.m.

By about 8:30 p.m., the situation at the AstroWorld Festival had become startling. As CNN reported, the 50,000 people waiting for Travis Scott to perform at the NRG Stadium started to move toward the stage. What was already a tightly-packed space became intolerable. "The crowd for whatever reason began to push and surge towards the front of the stage, which caused the people in the front to be compressed — they were unable to escape that situation," Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña told CNN

Eyewitnesses described how the already-compromised crowd became more and more packed. Madeline Eskins, a concertgoer and ICU nurse, told CNN that, as it became clear that Scott would be appearing, the crowd got more and more restless. "All of a sudden, people come pressed up against each other, pushed forward and backward. As the timer got closer it got worse and worse," Eskins said. "I had constant pressure on my chest ... I was being squeezed ... Right when he started performing his first song, I looked at my boyfriend and said, 'We have to get out of here.'"

It took almost an hour for the show to stop after being declared a 'mass casualty event'

By about 9 p.m., things went from bad to worse. When Travis Scott took to the stage, it was clear that people were in trouble. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner told The Daily Beast that within half an hour of Scott beginning his set, the police named the festival a "mass casualty event." "Our people stepped up [around 9:30 p.m.] and immediately went to the producers and told them, 'Hey, people are going down,'" Finner said. But, despite his warnings, it took another 40 minutes before anything was done to stop the show. 

In a timeline constructed, emergency response teams began to arrive during Scott's set around 9:32 p.m. Despite the flashing lights and cries from the audience to stop the show (shown in a video on Twitter), Scott continued to perform. By around 10:10 p.m., he exited the stage, saying, "Make it home safe!" Despite telling producers the concert needed to stop, Finner explained how the amount of time it took to bring the set to a close was defensible. "You cannot just close [it down] when you have over 50,000 individuals, [okay]?" he said during a press conference. "We have to worry about riots when you have a group that's that young."

People were 'fighting' to survive at the concert that claimed eight lives

The surge of concertgoers became a waking nightmare. As The New York Times noted, the surging crowd compacted people tightly, causing many to collapse and fight to breathe. The crowd began to surge past the bodies of those who were on the ground in hopes that emergency crews could tend to them outside of the confines of the surging listeners. A number of concertgoers yelled for CPR and cried out for the set to stop. Eight people lost their lives during the concert itself, according to Houston city officials. The death toll has since climbed (of which we detail further below). Hundreds were said to be treated for injuries at the scene. 

Nick Johnson, a teenager in attendance, told The New York Times "it was like hell" trying to fight the crowd. "Everybody was just in the back, trying to rush to the front," he said. His sentiment was echoed by Chris Leigh, who graphically explained, "I was fighting for my life; there was no way out."

As The New York Times reported, the eight people who died at the scene include: Franco Patiño, 21; John Hilgert, 14; Brianna Rodriguez, 16; Rudy Peña, 23; Jacob E. Jurinek, 20; Axel Acosta, 21; Danish Baig, age unconfirmed; and Madison Dubiski, 23.

Two more victims died from their injuries once transported to the hospital

During his AstroWorld Festival set, Travis Scott told his fans he wanted "to see some rages." "Who want to rage?" he said, egging on an already restless and dangerous crowd. As noted by The New York Times, he then briefly paused as emergency crews arrived during his set. "There's an ambulance in the crowd, whoa, whoa, whoa," he said, as the music ceased for a couple of seconds. But very shortly after looking at the ambulance's lights amongst the fans, Scott yelled, "If everybody good, put a middle finger up in the sky," before telling them to make the "ground shake" during the concert, as noted by The New York Times.

In addition to the eight people who lost their lives from the surging crowd at Scott's festival, two more victims died as a result of their injuries after being hospitalized. Bharti Shahani, 22, died on November 11, 2021, after being declared brain dead and taken off of a ventilator, as reported by People. November 15 marked the death of 9-year-old concertgoer Ezra Blount, who was trampled during the surge. His tragic death was confirmed by ABC13.

Travis Scott took to social media, saying he was 'devastated' over the tragedy

With the tragedy that unfolded at his concert, Travis Scott finally took to social media to address his fans and the public searching for answers. As noted by The New York Times, he took to his Instagram Stories to share a video, where he spoke about the disaster, expressing his shock. "I'm honestly just devastated, and I could never imagine anything like this just happening," Scott said. "I'm going to do everything I can to keep you guys updated and just keep you guys informed of what's going on. Love you all," he continued, as he consistently ran his hands over his forehead.

For her part, Kylie Jenner — Scott's girlfriend — took videos from the night in question off her social media and later posted a statement of her own on her Instagram Stories. "Travis and I are broken and devastated," she wrote, before saying that neither she nor Scott were "aware of any fatalities until the news came out" after the festival had ended. "In no world would [we] have continued filming or performing," she concluded. Of course, outrage over Scott's involvement with the surge quickly took hold, and legal action followed.

Lawsuits from victims started to pour in after the deadly incident

The crowd surge at Travis Scott's AstroWorld Festival resulted in the immediate deaths of eight people, ultimately killing 10 and injuring hundreds more. Unsurprisingly, Scott quickly faced legal action, and, as noted by the BBC, he was the subject of "multiple lawsuits" in the immediate aftermath. Tony Buzbee, a Houston-based lawyer, filed one such lawsuit on behalf of 35 concertgoers. 

The Buzbee lawsuit is one of many filed that cited "gross negligence" as the leading cause of the injuries and deaths, and some even pointed to both Scott and rapper Drake as the instigators of unruly crowd behavior. Buzbee also listed Live Nation, AstroWorld Festival's management company, in the suit "for failing to implement proper security and emergency response measures." One of his defendants, per the BBC, is the family of Axel Acosta, a 21-year-old concertgoer who died as a result of the surge. In the suit, Buzbee wrote, "When [Axel] collapsed, [concertgoers] trying to escape their own suffocation trampled over his body like a piece of trash."

Four days after the tragedy unfolded, Travis Scott faced 14 separate lawsuits

Just four days after the tragic occurrence at the AstroWorld Festival that took the lives of 10 and injured hundreds, rapper Travis Scott faced 14 separate lawsuits. Per Newsweek, Harris County District Court received the multitude of suits naming Scott and festival organizers Live Nation Entertainment and ScoreMore. One such suit came from concertgoer Manuel Souza, who claimed the entire circumstance was both "predictable and preventable" and that the deaths and injuries were the results of "a motivation for profit at the expense of concertgoers' health and safety" on Scott's part. Souza alone is demanding a $1 million payout. 

Other suits included similar language, with one filed by attorney Thomas Henry claiming that Scott and the other performers were tuned into the tragic events unfolding in the crowd. "There is every indication that the performers, organizers, and venue were not only aware of the hectic crowd but also that injuries and potential deaths may have occurred," Henry wrote in the suit. "Still, they decided to put profits over their attendees and allowed the deadly show to go on."

Travis Scott's image and brand deals suffered following the tragedy

Since the deadly surge at AstroWorld, Travis Scott's image has taken a hit. As noted by Chron, many of his affiliated businesses, including brands such as Sony, McDonalds, and Nike, have begun to distance themselves from the hitmaker. These lucrative deals could be on the chopping block for Scott, who allegedly is — at least, according to lawsuits — partially responsible for the deaths of 10 and the injuries sustained by hundreds of fans.

Scott's reputation within the pop culture vernacular is already declining. As Page Six noted, W Magazine was "desperately trying to pull" the November 5 issue, which featured Scott and girlfriend Kylie Jenner on the cover. "W editors have cleared any planned coverage of Travis and Kylie from their website ... and now they are trying to stop the delivery trucks," an inside source told Page Six.

The status of the rapper's future performances is up in the air

A number of different decisions have been made to try to salvage some sort of reputation on the part of Travis Scott and his current standing with fans — especially of those in attendance at the deadly AstroWorld Festival. As noted by TheWrap, Scott's team refunded all tickets purchased to the concert in the wake of the tragedy. In addition, a source confirmed to TheWrap that Scott would not perform that following Saturday at the Day N Vegas festival, of which he was scheduled to appear once again. 

Some of Scott's efforts, however, haven't been well received. Scott announced he was partnering with therapy app BetterHelp to offer those who suffered at the festival a month's worth of therapy, as reported by The Cut. But the move was largely seen as "strange," "exploitative," and "controversial" and unsurprisingly left BetterHelp rudderless in a public relations nightmare. And, as far as Scott's future performances, let's just say they've been up in the air. A petition on Change.org calling for Scott to be banned from all AEG, Paul Tollet, and Goldenvoice festivals has over 70,000 signatures, as of publication.

The latest lawsuit naming Travis Scott has been filed on behalf of 125 victims

In the immediate aftermath of the AstroWorld Festival tragedy, Houston-based attorney Tony Buzbee filed a lawsuit naming Travis Scott on behalf of 35 clients. As of November 17, 2021, that number has now escalated to 125 concert victims, as noted by BuzzFeed News. The lawsuit now has a $750 million payout attached to it, and the new complaint is now one of "hundreds of other lawsuits" filed against Scott and the event for "negligence." 

The huge payout, as reported by BuzzFeed News, is intended to "cover the cost of both physical and mental damage sustained by the victims" of the deadly surge, but Buzbee told the outlet that the money is not the main motivator for the suit. "No amount of money will ever make these Plaintiffs whole; no amount of money can restore human life," he said. "But, the damages sought in this case attempts to fix, help, or make up for the harms and losses suffered by these Plaintiffs — nothing more and nothing less." Scott is just one defendant alongside others including Live Nation, Cactus Jack Records, Apple Music, Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group, and Epic Records.

The tragedy sparked the creation of the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety

To say that the AstroWorld disaster left a stain on live music is an understatement. Not only were the lives lost senseless and avoidable, but many families and Travis Scott fans will forever be impacted by the traumatic experience. In response to the tragedy, the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety was created. In April 2022, the group's report was delivered, per Governor Greg Abbott's office.

The task force identified key areas of which can be improved to ensure safety at concert venues, including naming an "on-site command and control group," adequately planning the event ahead of time and appropriately training working personnel. Furthermore, the group stressed the importance of permits, as the AstroWorld Fest subsequently did not obtain any permits for the event — this made jurisdiction and emergency response much more fraught and complicated than it needed to be (via KXAN).

Additionally, the task force recommended that conducting background research on the performer could lead to a more well-rounded understanding of what could happen at a live event, as Scott in particular has had a history of violent and rowdy performances. "Some artists have a documented history of encouraging attendees to disregard public safety," the report read. "When an artist does this, it could be considered a breach of contract and come with responsibility for any damage to property and people. Event promoters should partner with artists to encourage safety, since messaging from the artist can be uniquely persuasive for fans."

Other artists have made a distinct point to check on fans during their live performances

Perhaps one of the most startling aspects of the AstroWorld Fest footage is the plea from the crowd to stop the performance — it's a haunting precursor to the event that occurred. In its aftermath, other artists have taken notice. In one high-profile instance, Billie Eilish made a point of halting a concert in Atlanta, Georgia when an attendee needed an inhaler. "I wait for people to be OK until I keep going," the "Bad Guy" singer said to the audience, a comment perceived by some as a dig at Travis Scott (via NME).

What was a kind gesture to a fan in need turned into a massive blow-up, as Kanye West quickly weighed in on social media and demanded that Eilish apologize to Scott publicly. The rapper doubled down on his Instagram post, telling followers that he would "need" Eilish to apologize before performing at Coachella 2022 (via Billboard). Eilish clapped back in a cool tone, commenting that she didn't once say anything about Scott and simply wanted to help a concert-goer. As it turns out, West's very public divorce from Kim Kardashian and his escalating attacks on Instagram resulted in his absence from the California music festival.