HOUSTON (AP) — Three concertgoers remain in critical condition following a massive crowd surge during a Travis Scott performance that left eight people dead and hundreds more injured at the Astroworld music festival, Houston’s mayor said Wednesday.
Mayor Sylvester Turner did not provide details about the conditions of the fans who have been hospitalized since the rapper’s headliner performance Friday night. But the family of a 9-year-old boy who attended the concert with his father has said the child is in a medically induced coma after sustaining injuries to his heart, lungs and brain.
Authorities have launched a criminal investigation, but Turner told city councilmembers during their weekly meeting that it could take some time to determine what caused the deaths at the sold-out festival, which drew some 50,000 attendees.
“How did this happen? That is a question that remains on all of our minds,” Turner said. “How did this happen? Where were the missteps? Where were the failures? Where were the gaps? We owe it to the family members, all of those who attended and quite frankly the city as a whole, to the first responders, all of them, how did this happen?”
Turner read the names of the eight people who died before pausing the meeting for a moment of silence. The victims were between the ages of 14 and 27 and came from Texas, Illinois and Washington state, according to authorities.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner scheduled a news conference about the investigation for later Wednesday. He has not held a briefing since Saturday, but released a statement this week confirming that he met with Scott before the show to express his concerns about safety. Finner has not publicly specified those concerns.
The festival grounds and stage where Scott performed have yet to be disassembled as authorities and attorneys representing the injured and their families continued combing the area. The festival was held on a parking lot that is part of NRG Park, a complex consisting of stadiums, an arena and a convention center.
Bernon Blount said his son and 9-year-old grandson, Ezra, attended the festival together but became separated during the crowd surge. He said Tuesday that the child was in a medically induced coma at a Houston hospital.
“I’m angry because it’s disrupted our family, and this could have been avoided if people in positions of power had done the right thing,” Blount said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday announced the formation of a task force to develop concert safety recommendations, which he said would “ensure that the tragedy that occurred at the Astroworld Festival never happens again.”
Emergency plans for the Astroworld music festival did not include protocols for dangerous crowd surges like the one that unfolded during the rush to see Scott, who founded the festival. More than 20 lawsuits have been filed, accusing organizers of failing to implement simple crowd-control measures or staff properly. Those being sued include Scott, Live Nation, and rapper Drake, who performed with Scott.
Houston police and fire departments have said they reviewed and approved safety plans. But the union head of the Houston Fire Department pushed back Tuesday, saying firefighters did not have a presence inside the festival and were not given radios to communicate directly with organizers.
Experts say crowd surge deaths happen because people are packed into a space so tightly that they can’t get enough oxygen. It’s not usually because they’re being trampled.
Authorities have said part of their investigation will include reviewing whether the concert promoter and others behind the festival adhered to the plans submitted.
There is a long history of similar catastrophes at concerts, as well as sporting and religious events. In 1979, 11 people were killed as thousands of fans tried to get into Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum to see a concert by The Who. Other crowd catastrophes include the deaths of 97 people at a soccer match in Hillsborough Stadium in 1989 in Sheffield, England, and numerous disasters connected with the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.