HOUSTON – One by one, they shared their experiences, or “nightmares,” as they called them. Plaintiffs represented by powerhouse attorneys Benjamin Crump and Alex Hilliard stood in front of the Harris County Civil Courthouse Friday morning detailing what happened on Nov. 5, the day that an iconic Houston staple -- Astroworld -- would be linked forever to a mass casualty tied to megastars.
Not to be confused with the trademarked historic amusement park, Travis Scott’s “Astroworld Festival,” with ticket prices ranging from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars, started off with chaos, according to concertgoers.
Video from earlier that afternoon showed crowds rushing through security gates at NRG, running past overwhelmingly outnumbered security guards and mounted horse patrols, and zooming past checkpoints and metal detectors.
Despite the early ruckus, the concert schedule continued.
Hours later, as Scott, the headliner, took the stage around 9 p.m., a crowd surge caused things to take a deadly turn.
As of Friday, nine people have died and a 9-year-old, Ezra Blount, remains on life support. His family, who is represented by Crump, says they are requesting privacy and prayers at this time. They want to keep their full focus on Ezra.
Other plaintiffs, however, are speaking out and detailed the “horror” they call a concert, and the trauma they are now claiming to experience in its aftermath.
Crump says some of the victims suffered physical injuries, some suffered mental and emotional injuries and some are suffering a mixture of it all.
Limping to the podium, 59-year-old grandmother Gertude Daughtery said she still has nightmares.
“I can’t sleep at night. Every time I close my eyes, I see it. I’m lost for words for it,” the grandmother said. “I’ve never seen so many people on the ground fighting for their lives. You never know that you would buy a ticket and it would be your death ticket. It’s devastating.”
Daughtery says when she fell to the ground, people walked over her. She believes if her brother had not helped her, she would not be alive today. Now, Daughtery says she is suffering back, leg and ankle injuries. Too overwhelmed to continue speaking, a tearful Daughtery had to be helped back to her seat.
Uniqua Smith, 34, attended the festival alone. The mother of twins says the festival was, by far, the most traumatizing experience of her life.
“I never thought by attending the festival, I would be taking the chance of possibly not returning home to my children,” she said. “I was toward the front left-hand stage when Travis Scott began to perform and I remember being crushed from every side by human bodies all around me.”
Smith said when Scott began to perform his first song, the crowd began to jump up and down and she could not maintain her footing. Smith said she and others formed a “camaraderie of sorts” to hold each other up. Smith says by the time Scott was on his third or fourth song, she was trying to make her way out. That is when she witnessed a woman having a seizure and they could not find any paramedics. Smith says she, too, fainted at one point, but ultimately made it out.
Smith says she is now afraid of large crowds.
Reyna Iraheta, 25, is new to Houston. She says she was excited about her best friend coming to town and them making memories at the concert. She says things were “a mess” from the start. To her, it appeared to be unorganized with no real presence of security.
“They were letting people pass by with beer cans and all these different things,” Iraheta shared.
She said the few security guards she saw were recording what was happening around them instead of helping people in need.
“It was just a horrible feeling thinking that the people who were supposed to protect us were just looking at us like we’re some fools. Like we are basically supposed to protect each other,” she said.
Dishon Isaac, 31, was on the left side of the stage. He said he noticed things started to get intense about 45 minutes before Scott came out. He called it a “war zone.”
Once Scott hit the stage, the pushing became aggressive.
“Each time I was pushed, I almost touched the ground. back and forth, back and forth. At this point, you were at the mercy of the crowd,” he described. “We were packed in so tight, we were like sardines in can. The feeling was like, imagine someone was behind you and bearhugging you as hard as they possibly can.”
Isaac said he remembers the look of terror on everyone’s face, with them all seeming to realize they needed to get out of there. Isaac said he is tall, so he was able to get air from the top, but a woman next to him was much shorter and she and others were suffocating. He said the flames used during Scott’s stage performance made matters worse.
Isaac says, like Smith, those around him formed a plan for survival.
He says everyone tried to put their hands in the air, at first, to give them some extra maneuvering room, but that did not work. They then came up with another plan.
“I basically teamed up with the people immediately around me and told everyone to get low and put your arms out like this so you can create some space for yourself,” he said demonstrating with elbows out. With that technique, he made his way out, while trying to help others who had fallen to the ground.
Isaac said once he was safe, he sat on the ground in a daze with his clothes drenched with sweat.
“Why is that Dishon and others had to try to come up with safety plans for an escape route? Where was the crowd control personnel there? Where were the medical personnel there to help them? It is malfeasance on every level and that’s why we have to get the answers,” Crump said. “We can not have it where people go to a concert and they die!”
Crump says this tragedy was unacceptable and preventable.
“One thing is for certain, we will not let them get away with this. There will be accountability and we are going to make them have changes in the industry,” Crump said. “Whether it is George Floyd or children in Flint, Michigan or all these cases. It is not just about justice for those who are injured in this tragedy, it’s about trying to make changes where all of our children and our neighbors will be safe and get to come home to their mothers and fathers...brothers and sisters....and friends. Unfortunately, not everybody who went to Astroworld Festival got to come home.”
Crump added that they are going after everyone who was in charge of the event.
“If Travis Scott is accountable, he absolutely should be held accountable but don’t forget that Live Nation does this every day, all day, in every part of the world,” he said. “If we want change to make sure people are going to be safe, we’ve got to be talking to the person who is the parent corporation and the industry leader. That is the only way you get change!”
Crump and Hilliard said, as of Friday, they are representing over 200 plaintiffs and have filed 93 lawsuits.
View the full news conference below.