With victims identified, many questions remain in the Houston tragedy


HOUSTON (AP) – When rapper Travis Scott’s sold-out concert in Houston turned into a deadly scene of panic and danger in the crowd, Edgar Acosta began to worry about his son, who was not answering his phone. .

He called hospitals and the police, who told him his son was not on the Astroworld festival casualty list. They were wrong: Axel Acosta Avila, 21, was one of eight people who died Friday night during the open-air festival which brought together some 50,000 people and is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

Authorities released the names of the dead on Monday as they continued to research what was wrong when a group of fans rushed in after Scott took the stage. The Houston Police Chief said Monday he met Scott before the rapper’s performance on Friday about security concerns, but did not say what specifically concerned him.

“They told me, Mr. Acosta, that your son is not on the list, so you don’t have to worry about a thing. He is not on the list of dead or injured, ”said Edgar Acosta, whose family is among those suing the organizers of the festival.

“I told them, ‘Well, he didn’t spend the night at his hotel, so I’m worried about him.'”

Houston Police and Fire Department investigators said they would be reviewing video taken by concert promoter Live Nation, as well as dozens of clips of people on the show that were shared widely on social media. Investigators are also scheduled to speak with representatives of Live Nation, Scott and spectators.

Live Nation said in a statement Monday that it had provided authorities with all footage from the festival’s surveillance cameras and suspended the removal of the material at the request of investigators walking the grounds. The promoter said full refunds will be offered to all participants.

Scott’s scheduled appearance at the Day N Vegas Festival in Las Vegas this weekend has been canceled, according to a representative for Scott who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Scott, who founded the Astroworld festival, said he would cover the funeral costs of the victims. The dead were between 14 and 27 years old and came from Texas, Illinois and Washington, according to Harris County officials. They included high school students, an aspiring border patrol officer and a computer science student.

More than 300 people have been treated at an on-site field hospital and at least 13 others have been hospitalized. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said his meeting with Scott before the show included the rapper’s security chief. But Finner did not go into details of their conversation in a statement released by the police department.

“I asked Travis Scott and his team to work with HPD for all weekend events and heed his team’s social media posts at any scheduled event,” said Finner. “The meeting was brief and respectful, and an opportunity for me to share my public safety concerns as a Chief of Police. “

Investigators were also interviewing witnesses and planning to examine the design of security barriers and the use of crowd control at the event.

“It’s not the crowd’s fault at all because there was no way to move, it was just like a massive loss of control,” said Ben Castro, a 19-year-old festival goer. He returned to the scene on Monday to lay flowers at a makeshift memorial that included notes, T-shirts and candles. He said he didn’t know anyone was dead until the next day.

Forensic pathologists have still not released the cause of death, which could take several weeks, said Michele Arnold, spokesperson for the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

Contemporary Services Corp., headquartered in Los Angeles, was responsible for the festival’s security personnel, according to Texas County records. The company describes itself online as “recognized around the world as the pioneer, expert and the only employee-owned company in the field of crowd management.” Company representatives did not respond to emails and phone messages asking for comment.

Astroworld organizers had set out safety and emergency medical response protocols in festival plans filed with Harris County. A 56-page plan of operations, obtained by AP, states that “the potential for multiple alcohol / drug incidents, possible evacuation needs and the ever-present threat of a mass casualty situation are identified as key concerns “.

The plan asks staff to “notify Event Control of an alleged deceased victim using the code ‘Smurf’.” He goes on to say, “Never use the term ‘dead’ or ‘deceased’ on the radio. It is not clear if the protocol was followed.

None of the listed individuals in charge of Astroworld’s security management and operations responded to requests for comment.

There is a long history of similar disasters at concerts, as well as sporting and religious events. In 1979, 11 people were killed as thousands of fans attempted to enter Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum to attend a Who concert. Other crowd disasters include the deaths of 97 people during a football match at Hillsborough Stadium in 1989 in Sheffield, England, and numerous disasters related to the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.


Associated Press editors Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas; Jake Bleiberg in Dallas; Randall Chase in Dover, Delaware and Kristin M. Hall in Nashville contributed to this report.


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