HOUSTON – The 10 people who lost their lives in a massive crowd surge at the Astroworld music festival in Houston died from compression asphyxia, officials announced Thursday.
Medical examiners with the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston had to wait several weeks following the Nov. 5 concert by rap superstar Travis Scott for additional test results before making final determinations on cause and manner of the deaths.
The 10 people who died were among 50,000 who attended the festival and were in the audience when Scott’s concert turned deadly.
The youngest victim was 9-year-old Ezra Blount. The others who died ranged in age from 14 to 27. Medical examiners said contributing factors in one man’s death were cocaine, methamphetamine and ethanol, a form of alcohol.
Some 300 people were injured and treated at the festival site and 25 were taken to hospitals.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed over injuries and deaths at the concert, where fans surged toward the stage during Scott’s concert, squeezing people so tightly together that they could not breathe or move their arms.
Scott and the event organizers are the focus of a criminal investigation by Houston police. No one has been charged. No timetable has been set for when the investigation would be completed.
Scott’s attorney reached out to the families of the 10 who died, offering to pay for their loved ones’ funeral costs. Several families turned down the offer.
The top elected official in the county that includes Houston, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, had proposed a third-party probe of the planning and execution of the festival founded by Scott.
The Harris County administrator instead will work with other city and county entities to review security, fire and other safety plans at the county-owned NRG Park, where the festival was held.
Other members of Harris County’s governing body, known as a commissioner’s court, were concerned Hidalgo’s investigation could lead to legal liabilities for the county.
Experts in crowd safety say an investigation by neutral outsiders could help avoid potential conflicts of interest and promote transparency.
A 56-page event operations plan for the Astroworld festival detailed protocols for dangerous scenarios, including a shooter, bomb or terrorist threats, and severe weather. But it did not include information on what to do in the event of a crowd surge.
Bharti Shahani’s attorney released the following statement regarding the Medical Examiner findings:
“Findings released Thursday by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences confirm that Astroworld Festival victim Bharti Shahani suffered a horrific death as she was suffocated within a massive crowd, said attorney James Lassiter.
“The medical examiner’s findings confirm Bharti’s family’s worst fears,” Lassiter said. “Their beloved daughter’s last living moments were surely marked with suffering, panic, and terror. It’s a horrific, inescapable image that no parent should have to endure. But that is the sad reality for the Shahanis and the nine other families that received this terrible news.”
The Lassiter Law Firm represents the family of 22-year-old Bharti Shahani in a lawsuit filed against those responsible for the Astroworld Festival disaster. The official cause of death for all 10 people who died from injuries suffered during the Nov. 5 event was “compression asphyxia” according to the medical examiner.”
Tony Buzbee, the attorney for Axel Acosta, released the following statement regarding the Medical Examiner findings:
“Today Harris County released the cause of death of Axel Acosta, one of the ten victims who died at the Astroworld concert. Axel’s cause of death is listed as “compression asphyxia.” The report confirms what the family already knew, which is that Axel was crushed and killed that night by the crowd, through no fault of his own. It is also important to note that Axel’s blood contained absolutely no intoxicants or other like substances. Now that we have received the official results, I want to say to our police chief: Shame on you. Shame on you for perpetuating and giving credence to a silly rumor that people were being injected at the concert. In doing so, you added more pain to an already unbearably painful situation for Axel’s family. Axel Acosta’s family looks forward now to present their case in court, in front of a jury, in the hopes that all those accountable are held legally responsible, and that a preventable tragedy like this never happens again.”
The Houston Police Department released the following statement:
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