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‘People Are Dying’: Witnesses Describe the Horror of Astroworld Tragedy in Houston

Fans screamed for help and made pleas to “stop the show” amid a crowd surge during Travis Scott’s Astroworld Fest set Friday night that left at least eight people dead and hundreds more injured.

Following the incident, accounts and video flooded onto social media about what people experienced during the stampede-like atmosphere, as well as the futile attempts to stop the concert in order to allow the injured people — trapped within the churning mass — to receive the help they required.

Madeline Eskins, an attendee and an ICU nurse, told Rolling Stone on Saturday morning, “It was definitely overcrowded. It was insane, honestly. I knew it was just way too crowded – it just got worse and worse as i got closer to Travis Scott performing it got more crowded, more crowded, more crowded.”

“Fans were recording the concert and people doing CPR,” Eskins added. “Fans were yelling at the stage crew around us, saying stop the concert, people are dying. No one listened.”

Eskins, attending her third Astroworld fest, told Rolling Stone that, in the initial crowd surge at around 9 p.m., “I looked at my boyfriend and I was about to tell my boyfriend to tell my son I loved him because I did not think I would make it out of there. And I fainted,” Eskins said. “I tried to jump up as much as I could to get air. I couldn’t breathe. I just felt it. I knew it was coming.”

Someone then crowd-surfed Eskins to a security guard while she was still unconscious; she came to in what she believed to be a VIP area that was filling up with unconscious festival-goers.

Grant Tate, 20, was about 15 feet from the stage when the pandemonium started.

“As soon as Travis Scott came out, people just started compacting. People were just pressing on you from every direction. You were at the will of crowd,” he told Rolling Stone. “I remember there was a girl next to me looking straight up trying to get a breath. I could see how scared she was. I was scared. You couldn’t raise your arms or get your balance. …We were scared for our lives, honestly,” he said.

The Scottsdale, Arizona, resident, who described himself as 6 feet 3 inches tall, managed to make his way to a platform for a camera crane. He recalled helping about eight smaller people over the barricade before climbing it himself.

“It was a really chaotic experience. One girl, her top came completely off,” he said. “The camera went low over people’s heads, and someone reached up to grab onto it. People were just panicking. They were definitely trying to get out of the area. That was them trying to get out.”

Eskins shared more of her experience on social media, saying she believed the medical staff at the show was inexperienced and overwhelmed:

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A post shared by Madeline Eskins (@madddeline_____)

Tate and other festival-goers described a shocking lack of staff communication. They said the people climbing onto the risers where cameras were filming Scott’s set — which streamed live on Apple Music — pleaded with the crew to communicate to someone that the concert needed to be halted. Video from the incident appears to show the crew ignoring those efforts, with some in the crowd mocking the pleas for help.

“I was telling the crane crew, ‘There are people on the ground. They need help.’ They didn’t have any communication with the EMTs or security. They couldn’t help,” he said. “There was just no preparation for them to have an emergency scenario like that.”

Tate said one man collapsed directly on the camera’s wheel well while another was sprawled out near the camera with no shirt getting CPR right over the wall.

“People were yelling, ‘Stop the show!’ But a lot of people were yelling lot of things. I’m sure it was hard for (Scott) to understand,” he said. “If there was any communication between that middle camera area and (stage staff), he might have understood – and maybe stopped the show.”

As one attendee (@seannafaith) wrote on Instagram, “We began to scream to help. We could see security, just a few people away, in the walkway in the middle. It got tighter. Impossible to breath, as our lungs were compressed between the bodies of those surrounding us. More people began screaming for help, but we were not heard. There was nowhere to go.”

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A post shared by ✦ Seanna ☾ (@seannafaith)

@seannafaith also claimed they were among the people who climbed the camera platform to inform the cameraperson that people needed help. “I climbed the ladder and pointed at the hole, telling him people were dying,” they wrote. “He told me to get off the platform, and continued filming.”

Amy Harris, a freelancer working for the Associated Press, told Rolling Stone that she had safety concerns in the early afternoon as hundreds of people jumped the barrier between the crowd and the stage where photographers were stationed.

“I got crushed in the crowd between the barricade and the fence in the tunnel going out. I was very scared,” Harris said. I got out. I texted the PR. I told them it was an unsafe situation and I wouldn’t be going back out. They made an alternate plan to enter and exit the opposite side of the stage all day.”

Despite the concerns, the situation worsened when Scott took the stage. “Many people were streaming over the barricade wall in our photo pit. The photo pit was jam-packed with chaos,” Harris said. 

“We saw a lot of people crying… We didn’t understand what was happening. But I was done. I had texted my photo editor at 9:30 and basically told her I wasn’t coming back for the second day because I didn’t feel there were too many safety concerns while I was there.”

Harris, who has shot music festivals over the past 12 years, added of the Astroworld crowd, “They were the most aggressive fans I’ve ever seen at a festival.”

Video also emerged of Scott witnessing at least one unconscious fan being carried out of the area near the side of the stage; at one point during the concert, Scott looked into the crowd and stopped the music. “Somebody needs help, somebody passed out right here,” he said in video posted on Reddit. “Can somebody help jump in real quick, c’mon c’mon.” However, soon after, the concert continued.

“If he would’ve stopped the concert, or paused it, people would have settled down and the situation could have been assessed a lot better,” Eskins said. “If he could see someone was passed out, he could’ve seen something should’ve been done. This started from the very beginning of the concert. So it went from about 9:00 pm, that’s when I passed out. And went on till about 10:15, 10:30.”

As for allegations, reported by TMZ, that the crowd surge was sparked by someone “injecting” people with drugs, Eskins said, “People around me were sober. They’re trying to say it was drugs. The only thing i saw was people around smoking weed and people around me were not doing that.”

“They’re trying to blame drugs. And I will level with you, I don’t think this was caused by drug use,” Eskins said. “Could it have been a contributing factor? Sure. Will they find drugs in the bodies of those passed away? Maybe. But people were getting suffocated. People were getting trampled. A lot of these trauma-based injuries. One dude had his face smashed in. He was bleeding from his nose, face, and mouth. Which I guess drugs can cause, but so can getting trampled.”

Authorities said the “mass casualties event” took place at approximately 9:38 p.m. during Scott’s headlining set Friday. “The crowd for whatever reason began to push and surge towards the front of the stage, which caused the people in the front to be compressed,” Peña said. “They were unable to escape that situation.”

 

 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified photographer Amy Harris. She is a freelancer working for the Associated Press.

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