Astroworld Tragedy: The Next Chapter

KPRC 2 Investigates discusses accountability probe into “crowd crush” deaths at 2021 Astroworld Festival

For more than 13 months, family and friends have been demanding answers about who is responsible for 10 crowd crush deaths at a Travis Scott performance at last year’s Astroworld Festival. KPRC 2 Investigates reviewed documents, emails, and notes surrounding the tragedy and the quest for accountability.

For more than 13 months, family and friends have been demanding answers about who is responsible for 10 crowd crush deaths at a Travis Scott performance at last year’s Astroworld Festival.

In a live conversation on the KPRC 2+ livestream Wednesday night, KPRC 2 Investigates reviewed documents, emails, and notes surrounding the tragedy and the quest for accountability. [SCROLL DOWN TO SEE LIVE UPDATES.]

Here’s what else the team discussed:

  • The jurisdictional issues between the city and county and why there was no ordinance for outdoor private events until the newly released City-County Interlocal Agreement.
  • What local leaders are doing to prevent another tragedy by streamlining the permitting process for outdoor events at NRG.
  • What happened to four Houston Police Officers after the festival and how the police union is still fighting for two of them.
  • Plus, one victim’s family told KPRC the steps they are taking to change how concerts are handled within the city.

LIVE SHOW UPDATES

6:31 p.m. - We recently released our original documentary, ‘ASTROWORLD: The countdown to tragedy” on the KPRC2+ livestream. But our work hasn’t stopped.

We will never forget the victims of the Astroworld tragedy. The impacts of this for all of the families of the victims and also the survivors, some who will have lasting effects. Robert Arnold mentioned a young man who was at the concert and had surgery on his arm and he may never have full use of that arm. Also, the emotional impact for so many.

6:36 p.m. - Who had jurisdiction? In our reporting, it was tough to get answers about who ultimately had jurisdiction over NRG park at the time. We recently reported on the new agreement between the city and county aimed at addressing large-scale events.

Joel, Robert and Mario talk about the confusion around who was in charge months after the incident.

HFD Chief said last year failure falls on everyone involved in the event.

6:47 p.m. - Emails obtained by KPRC 2 Investigates highlight some of the confusion that had to be overcome when forming a new interlocal agreement between the city and county.

An email dated Oct. 28, 2022 from Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen obtained by KPRC 2, shows this jurisdictional point wasn’t cleared up until May. See the full report from Robert on these emails here.

A Houston-Harris Special Events Task Force was created in February 2022.

RELATED: Houston city council delays music event ordinance.

6:50 p.m. - Viewer Question: Why weren’t concert goers stopped right when they ran down the gates (earlier in the day)?

This is a question we also have been asking for months. We have never gotten a clear answer. Joel E points out that within 15 minutes of opening the gates were run down. This was at 9:30 am Friday. (In our documentary, you can see more details on the timeline of what went down that morning and into the day.)

6:56 p.m. - Viewer question: Did the max occupancy at the venue align with the ticket holders?

Answer: There was no max occupancy. This was one of the biggest problems with how this concert was handled.

7:00 p.m. - Viewer question: Did any families get justice? Did they get paid?

Answer: We know a lot of families have reached settlements. In part of those settlements, they are not allowed to talk to anyone about the agreement.

7:10 p.m. - We interviewed an expert on crowd management who has worked to change safety standards across the country. Paul Wertheimer talked with us about what happened at the Astroworld festival and what you can do if you are in a similar situation.

Wertheimer joined us live to answer questions. He said when you first start to feel a crowd surging forward, put yourself into a stance similar to a boxer; feet apart, knees slightly bent, and use your hands to protect your head and chest.

Wertheimer said “crowd craze” is when people start moving toward the main entertainment. This can lead to “crowd surge” and then “crowd crush.”

Wertheimer said if you fall on your back or stomach you run a greater risk of having your chest compressed to the point your lungs can’t expand and retract.

Viewer question: How is the rodeo handled? It uses NRG and the grounds

Answer: The rodeo has sold seats, so the type of event is very different. Also, Mario points out that it is not hard to recruit for extra security at the rodeo. (At Astroworld, extra pay had to be offered to get more help. Mario talks about how the pay to work an extra job was $35 per hour at first, but it had to be raised to $60 to get enough officers to sign up to work.) [RELATED: Previous questions about Astroworld permitting.]

7:24 p.m. - Viewer question: Travis Scott is planning to host two events at MMP. What is the city doing to make this even run smoothly.

Answer: This is a baseball charity event. It will also be sold seats. We have not heard how security will be handled for this event.

7:26 p.m. - Viewer question: Has anyone faced any consequences in the aftermath of this deadly festival?

Answer: This is a question we’ve been asking for months. No criminal charges. Mario and Joel spoke with a former HPD commander who said he was demoted after the festival. Former City of Houston Police Commander Mark Lentini said he and other first responders were bracing for chaos. Here is what happened with four Houston Police Officers after the festival.

There has been some good to come out of this tragedy. Friends and family members of some of the victims are making sure these young people are not forgotten. They’ve started charities. 23-year-old Madison Dubiski’s family started the Pink Bows foundation. This group is working for stronger safety protocols at entertainment venues. The family of Brianna Rodriguez started a charity Dancing through Bri to raise money for children in need.

Watch an encore presentation of ”ASTROWORLD: Countdown to Tragedy” here.


About the Authors:

Nationally-recognized investigative journalist. Passionate about in-depth and investigative stories that are important to the community. Obsessed with my Corgi pup named Chulo.