A stampede of fans surging toward the stage during rap star 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, officials said.
City Police Chief Troy Finner said his department has opened a criminal investigation by homicide and narcotics detectives following unconfirmed reports that someone in the audience “was injecting other people with drugs.”
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.”
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.”
Police were awaiting autopsies to determine the causes of death, but said some victims were trampled.
Scott released a 90-second video on social media late on Saturday, saying that while on stage “I could just never imagine the severity of the situation.”
City Fire Chief Samuel Peña said it appeared the venue had ample exit routes for fans and that none was obstructed.
Twenty-five people were taken to hospitals by ambulance after the crush began, some of them in cardiac arrest, with 13 still hospitalized on Saturday – five under age 18 – following the discharge of four patients, Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters. Eight people died. Most ranged in age from 14 to 27, though one victim’s age was not immediately known, Turner said.