Astroworld Lawsuits Filed Against Travis Scott, Drake & Live Nation
Festivalgoers at Astroworld faced tragedy as the 2021 music festival taking place annually at NRG Park in Houston, Texas and founded by rapper Travis Scott, took a turn for the worst with a deadly crowd surge that killed eight fans. Many injured and non-injured attendees are questioning the safety of the event that canceled its second scheduled day of festivities due to the seemingly preventable incident. Lawsuits are already starting as people are coping with trauma, injuries, and mass casualties of loved ones after the deadliest American concert to happen since the 2017 mass shooting at the country music festival in Las Vegas, and they’re struggling to find someone to hold accountable for the resulting harm.
What is Astroworld?
Rapper Travis Scott drew his inspiration for the Astroworld music festival from the now-closed Six Flags Astroworld. The festival takes place annually at the former amusement park site and Scott’s hometown in Houston. Due to its cancellation last year over Covid-19 concerns and move to an online format via the video game “Fortnite” in collaboration with Epic Games, 2021 marked the festival’s third year in production. The festival first launched in 2018, corresponding to the timeline of Scott’s third album release that shares the same name.
Previous iterations of the festival included performances by Post Malone, Lil Wayne, Metro Boomin, and Scott at its inception. The following year in 2019, offered a broadened musical variety to include reggaeton and hard rock with artists such as Gucci Mane, Migos, Megan thee Stallion, Rosalia, and Pharrell Williams. The event previously took place in one day, but scheduling for this year’s event spanned two days, November 5 and 6.
This year’s Astroworld festival, named “Open Your Eyes to a Whole New Universe,” attempted to tap into the magic and nostalgia of Scott’s beloved childhood theme park closed in 2005. The lineup included Bad Bunny, SZA, Tame Impala, Earth, Wind & Fire, Chief Keef, Baby Keem, 21 Savage, BIA, Master P, Don Toliver, and Young Thug.
Scott planned to donate a part of the 2021 proceeds to the festival’s charity partner (also founded by Scott), known as the Cactus Jack Foundation. On its website, the foundation speaks about the importance of access to educational opportunities rich with creativity for all children “regardless of their circumstances to achieve their dreams.”
What happened at the Astroworld event?
Shortly after 9 p.m., as Scott took the stage, a deadly crowd surge began, killing eight and injuring many present at the Astroworld music festival attended by approximately 50,000 people—a sold-out show. The incident happened on the first day of the festival, leading to the cancellation of day two. Officials called it a “mass casualty incident,” responding to a call Friday night that led them to NRG Park.
A crowd surge can happen at large, heavily populated events, such as festivals and concerts, when attendees begin pushing forward simultaneously and as a group to get closer to performers. This in-unison pushing can cause injuries as crowd members collectively fall into one another or on the ground and sometimes feel pressure to lean into or past barricades or other obstacles, including other people.
Crowd surges happen quickly and all at once, spurred by a catalyst or powerful desire to move away or toward something, compounding the urgency (i.e., leaving people very little time to react) and intensity of resulting damages. This sudden rush or force of energy can be enough to literally squeeze people to death, especially if hit from two opposing directions. When victims fall, they’re subject to trampling or pileups that can lead to broken bones, including crushed ribs and a lack of oxygen.
Poor crowd management is a top reason for surges that get out of control. Witnesses described a chaotic scene at Astroworld to USA Today with teenagers administering CPR to injured fans and others screaming for help. Festival attendees watched as dozens of people fell victim to trampling with a seeming lack of prompt interference.
- Professional DJ Billy Nasser reported to the news outlet his account of the tragedy, stating that as people tried to get closer to Scott, they “ignored the pile of people they were stepping on.” He explained that as people cried and bled from their faces, it seemed no one had an interest in coming to anyone’s aid. Nasser says, “… I was the only one helping while the crowd just danced away.”
Having worked many similar events, Nasser said the “madness” at Astroworld was incomparable to anything he had ever seen or experienced before. He made mention of the barricade around the crowd as a source of harm, preventing people from getting out of the surge safely.
Others noted contributing factors to the Astroworld catastrophe, such as the darkness, minimal staffing, apparent apathy, and inability of the paramedics to make their way through the crowd due to a lack of crowd control.
History of Turmoil
This isn’t the first time tragedy struck at an Astroworld event, with three people previously injured in a stampede at the 2019 iteration of the festival. Other concertgoers who attended the eight-time Grammy-nominated rapper’s former concerts have also alleged injuries, stating that Scott encourages chaos and doesn’t take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of his fans.
The rapper pleaded guilty and served one year of probation after an arrest in 2015 for prompting fans at Lollapalooza to jump security barricades. After a 2017 concert in New York, Scott faced charges for inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, and endangering the welfare of a minor due to encouraging fans to rush the stage at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. He paid court fees and restitution to two injured people after pleading guilty only to the disorderly conduct charges.
Scott and his girlfriend Kylie Jenner released a statement expressing their condolences to those killed or injured at the 2021 Astroworld event, stating that Scott wasn’t aware of the deaths until after the show. In an Instagram post, Jenner, who shares a 3-year-old daughter with Scott and is expecting their child, stated that Scott “cares deeply for his fans and the Houston community.” She claims that if they were aware of what was happening, they would’ve halted filming and performing.
However, festival attendees say many repeatedly shouted, “Stop the show!” Despite the distress calls, the show continued for 40 minutes. Even when Scott became aware of an emergency vehicle in the audience, the show went on, placing profits over people. The LA Times reported, according to witnesses, Scott said, “There’s an ambulance in the crowd. Whoa, whoa, whoa… Y’all know what you came to do,” as he picked up performing. The media outlet also reported that Scott briefly paused to ask for assistance from security to help someone who passed out but then again resumed.
How many people were injured or killed by the crowd surge at Astroworld?
Eight people died at the 2021 Astroworld music festival hosted by Scott after the crowd attempted to rush the stage when the festival’s founder began performing. The Houston-based festival saw many injured and at least eight killed at the event attended by 50,000. Witnesses described horror and chaos as bodies fell around them and begged for the concert to stop.
According to the New York Times, hundreds suffered injuries, with many requiring medical attention, including a 10-year-old child in critical condition. Although paramedics arrived to assist after receiving the 911 call, it was difficult for them to push through the frenzied crowd, delaying help and treatment for those harmed as the festival continued for another 40 minutes at Scott’s lead. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner defended the amount of time it took to halt the concert, saying riots could’ve broken out had it happened more hastily.
CNN reported that at least 25 people needed transport to the hospital for treatment, and 13 remained hospitalized as of the afternoon of November 6, the day after the event, according to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who spoke at a news conference on Saturday evening. Turner said five hospitalized victims were under the age of 18.
Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña said more than 300 people received treatment at a field hospital near the site of the festival. Some patients were in cardiac arrest while medical professionals had to administer Narcan (used to treat narcotic overdoses) to others. Many reported breathing problems, with some saying it felt like 100 degrees in the crowd as everyone crushed into each other, making it impossible for some to even lift their arms.
There were no reports of missing people, and at this time, all victims are accounted for. Those who died included:
- Franco Patino (21): Senior at the University of Dayton in Ohio, majoring in mechanical engineering technology with a minor in human movement biomechanics and working with a team on a new medical device
- John Hilgert (14): Freshman at Memorial High School outside of Houston and the youngest person killed at Astroworld
- Brianna Rodriguez (16): Student at Heights High School in Houston and member of the school’s Redcoats dance team
- Rudy Peña (23): Student at Laredo College in Texas, remembered by his sister Jennifer Peña in a Facebook post as “the sweetest person, friendly, outgoing”
- Danish Baig (27): His brother Basil Baig who also attended the festival, said his brother died saving his fiancée Olivia Swingle from “horrendous things that were being done,” referring to people trampling and stomping on other people
- Jacob E. Jurinek (20): Junior at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and nicknamed “Big Jake” for his “larger-than-life personality,” according to his family
- Axel Acosta (21): Junior at Western Washington University in Bellingham, studying computer science
- Madison Dubiski (23): Houston resident and employee at a Houston-based advertising agency, she attended the festival with her brother but separated from him before her death
Who’s liable for the injuries and deaths at Astroworld?
As officials scramble to find answers, many want to evade blame and are quick to defend their handling of the incident. However, several might be at fault for the tragic event that unfolded at the 2021 Astroworld music festival. Travis Scott, Live Nation (a live entertainment company and event organizer), and concert promoter Scoremore are already facing lawsuits, with attorneys for injured parties claiming gross negligence and calling the incident “predictable and preventable.” Lawsuits allege Scott essentially invites his fans to “rage,” thereby inciting violence, as evidenced by his past performances.
Additionally, many are pointing to a lack of security and crowd control and questioning the 40 minutes it took on-site police officers to shut down the festival after the chaos and resulting injuries and deaths ensued. The mayor said 528 police officers were at the event, along with 755 security guards supplied by Live Nation. Police Chief Finner said they canceled the event as quickly as possible, stating: “You cannot just close when you have 50,000 individuals that young. You can have rioting.” “People started going down” around 9:30 p.m., according to Finner, and the show ended at 10:10 p.m.
Premises liability laws in Houston, Texas, help protect visitors from harm while on someone else’s property. These laws also help compensate people for their injuries after visiting a property with dangerous conditions. According to Texas’s premises liability laws, property owners have an obligation or legal duty to ensure the property is safe and hazard-free. Thereby, the owner of NRG Park (where the deadly Astroworld event took place), NRG Energy, might also share liability for the injuries and deaths.
Lastly, crowd members might be responsible. One security guard who responded to the crowd surge fell unconscious after feeling what he believes might have been a needle prick. Paramedics treated him with Narcan, and he recovered. Medical personnel did identify a prick that seemed to be from an injection, leading to the start of a narcotics investigation.
A homicide investigation is ongoing, with causes of deaths to be determined. Additionally, officials are considering the design of safety barriers, whether there was an incitement initiating the crowd surge, the number of available security staffing, and other factors that might have contributed to the incident. They will use video surveillance from the event and witnesses, witness statements, and a review of concert protocols to decide liability and any criminal charges.