Rapper Travis Scott has released his first statement after at least eight people died at a Houston music festival, and scores of others were injured.
There were at least eight fatalities and multiple people injured when a crowd surged toward a stage , squeezing audience members who had nowhere to escape, officials said.
About 50,000 people were at the sold-out outdoor Astroworld Festival at NRG Park —the stadium complex where the Astrodome and the NRG Stadium stand — when the incident happened just after 9pm local time (1pm Saturday AEDT), officials said.
“I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night. My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival,” Scott wrote on a verified Twitter account.
“Houston PD has my total support as they continue to look into the tragic loss of life,” he continues.
“I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need. Thank you to Houston PD, Fire Department and NRG Park for their immediate response and support,” Scott says.
Video from the event showed the performer on stage — rapper and event organiser Travis Scott — pause and look on in confusion as an ambulance with flashing lights moved into the densely packed crowd.
“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 — they were unable to escape that situation,” Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña told CNN Saturday morning.
That sparked panic, and the situation worsened and overwhelmed security personnel there, he said.
“People began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created additional panic,” Peña said at a news conference.
More than 300 people were treated at a field hospital set up near the festival, Peña said.
Twenty-three people were taken to hospitals, and eight of them died, Peña said. One patient is 10 years old, and at last check was in critical condition, Peña told CNN Saturday morning.
Officials declared a “mass casualty incident” with Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite, who was near the front of the crowd, saying it seemed the surge “happened all at once.”
“Suddenly we had several people down on the ground, experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode,” Satterwhite said.
“And so we immediately started doing CPR, and moving people right then, and that’s when I went and met with the promoters, and Live Nation, and they agreed to end early in the interest of public safety.”
Scott, one of music’s biggest young stars, released two new songs earlier Friday, “Mafia” and “Escape Plan”. The 29-year-old Houston native has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards. He has a 3-year-old daughter, Stormi, with Kylie Jenner, who announced in September that she’s pregnant with their second child.
Drake joined Scott on-stage at the concert — which was livestreamed by Apple Music — and posted photos to Instagram after the performance.
Event promoters had arranged for medical units to be on scene at the festival, however once the crowd surge began, those units were “quickly overwhelmed,” Peña said.
Crowd members attempt CPR on the injured
People who attended the concert shared on social media the chaos that ensued. Medical personnel were so overwhelmed with the injuries that some audience members attempted to administer CPR.
Houston police and event security staff stopped the concert “as soon as the situation got to the point where it was overwhelming the resources there,” but by then “the damage had been done,” Peña said.
Peña said the cause of the surge was not immediately clear.
Investigators will review video of the scene and look at how the venue was laid out and whether it had enough exit points, Peña said.
The investigation will explore “what caused, one, the issue of the crowd surge, and two, what prevented people from being able to escape that situation,” Peña said.
The causes of deaths are pending the medical examiner’s determination, he said.
Saturday’s portion of the planned two-day event is cancelled, organisers said.
“As authorities mentioned in their press conference earlier, they are looking into the series of cardiac arrests that took place. If you have any relevant information on this, please reach out to @houstonpolice,” the tweet reads.
Astroworld organisers did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment early Saturday morning.
People rushed through gate hours earlier — and 3 were trampled at event two years ago
Earlier in the day, video from CNN affiliate KPRC showed numerous people rushing through a VIP entrance at the event — knocking over metal detectors and sometimes other people, and ignoring security staff.
The video showed some people helping a few others up. Peña said he didn’t know what caused that rush, either.
“We do know that we had people jump the fence,” and at least one person was injured in that afternoon rush, Peña said.
The festival was slated to feature artists including SZA, Bad Bunny and 21 Savage.
Houston mayor offered condolences to the loved ones of those killed.
“Organisers held the event to bring people together for music, but it sadly ended in tragedy. Thanks to police, fire & other agencies that responded to assist,” Mayor Sylvester Turner posted to Twitter.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner called for calm and urged people not to jump to conclusions as to what caused the surge.
“I think it’s very important that none of us speculate. Nobody has all the answers tonight,” Finner said. He added that there have been several rumours surrounding the event that authorities would look into.
“We’re going to do an investigation and find out because it’s not fair to the producers, to anybody else involved, until we determine what happened, what caused the surge,” he said. “We don’t know, but we will find out.”