Credit: Global News

‘No exits, no lights, no air’: Did ‘Astroworld’ prioritise profit over people’s lives?

By Derry Wyllie

What links the litany of mistakes leading to that Friday’s tragic events? Preventability.

On Friday 5 November at approximately 9:30pm, a “mass casualty incident” was declared on day one of Travis Scott’s two day Astroworld festival in Houston, Texas. At least 50,000 people attended the festival, however the precise crowd size is not known due to fans storming a VIP entrance earlier in the day. This resulted in multiple fans gaining entry unaccounted for and lacking the appropriate safety checks. At 8:30pm, a countdown to Scott’s performance began. The crowd proceeded to surge towards the stage, causing people as young as nine to be pushed over and crushed. 

Before Travis Scott took to the stage around 9pm, there had already been a series of incidents that threatened the health and safety of the crowd. Once he took to the stage, things just got worse, attendees began losing consciousness and struggling to breathe. Scott did not stop performing until after 10pm.

The chaos that ensued has left 10 people dead and hundreds more injured. The day after the festival, Travis Scott tweeted a screenshot from his phone notes stating that he was “devastated” by the events that took place. Sources have claimed that Scott was unaware of the situation until he attended an afterparty with friends. However, his tweet was immediately inundated with responses of users’ videos of Astroworld attendees screaming for help, pleading with Travis Scott and security, continuously chanting to “stop the show”, crowds on top of ambulances trying to reach helpless victims, as well as past instances of Scott encouraging riotous behaviour from his crowds. One video, taken during Scott’s set at Astroworld, shows him stopping the show – briefly – to ensure security were able to attend to someone who had lost consciousness, before continuing the show once help had reached the person.

If Travis could spot one person needing assistance, how could he miss the hundreds of others desperate for his attention? Why didn’t he stop the show to allow them to get help? Why did he not listen when people climbed the stage and begged to stop the show? Why weren’t security and medical staff equipped with the supplies and training to deal with this? Countless questions are raised by this tragedy, and people are demanding answers. A spokesperson for Travis Scott told CBS News that he did not have authority to stop the show, as that authority lies solely with the concert producer and executive producer. Since Astroworld, the internet has erupted with viral videos of artists such as Adele and Linkin Park stopping their shows to ensure the crowd can access help.

“If Travis could spot one person needing assistance, how could he miss the hundreds of others desperate for his attention?”

Travis Scott is no stranger to conflict at his shows. In 2017, he encouraged a concert attendee to jump off a second floor balcony, saying “I see you, but are you gonna do it.” Another one of his concerts left Kyle Green paralysed after being pushed from a third floor balcony. Scott also regularly invites his fans to “rage”, a habit that reappeared at Astroworld, when he let the crowd know he “wanted to hear the ground shake” after a brief pause in the set.

A number of attendees have since come forward detailing the staffing inconsistencies of the event. A security guard told Rolling Stone that after responding to an online ad for security staff, he was not given sufficient training to deal with crowd surges of this level. Organisers have also been criticised for the lack of medical supplies for an event of this size, and for training of medical staff, as attendees have claimed that a member of the medical team was unsure how to locate someone’s pulse. As a number of attendees went into cardiac arrests, there was nowhere near enough equipment to help everyone. More staff, training, and resources at the event could have potentially saved a number of lives.

Over 100 lawsuits have been filed from over 300 victims, many of which cite Travis Scott, Drake (who joined him on stage whilst the crowd were being crushed in front of them), and event organisers such as Live Nation and ScoreMore, as being responsible for the deathly events that took place. Attendee Manuel Souza has filed a petition labelling the devastation that took place “predictable and preventable”. His $1m lawsuit cites the “Defendants’ motivation for profit” came “at the expense of concertgoers’ health and safety”. Souza also detailed that he has “serious bodily injuries” after the crowd “knocked him to the ground and trampled him”.

Souza is far from the only Astroworld victim to place blame on those benefiting from the profits of the event. In his lawsuit, lawyer Thomas J. Henry explains that “The Defendants stood to make an exorbitant amount of money off this event, yet they chose to cut corners, cut costs, and put the festival attendees at risk.” And as of today, Henry has filed a $2bn lawsuit against Scott, Drake, Live Nation and others on behalf of the 282 people who hired him for representation. So thus the question must be asked, did Astroworld organisers prioritise profit over people’s lives? 


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