Around 50,000 people were in the audience at Houston’s NRG Park Friday night when the crowd started pushing toward the stage as Scott was performing, triggering chaotic scenes.
“People were being pushed, people were being trampled, and then as I fought my way out of there, I saw people on the ground,” Logan Morris, a Dallas native who was at the show, told AFP.
Raul Marquez, 24, said he saw a lot of drinking and drug use in the crowd.
“And they got hot and just dancing and it all caved in and just, they couldn’t breathe, and passed out left and right,” he said.
“Some people didn’t care and just stomped on them or ignored them. It was intense,” Marquez said.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters Saturday afternoon that the crush left eight people dead, from ages 14 to 27, with one person’s age unknown. The chaos also resulted in 25 people being transported to the hospital, including 13 who were still there.
Turner said that authorities are looking at video footage, talking to witnesses, concert organizers and people who were hospitalized.
“This is a very, very active investigation, and we will probably be at it for quite some time to determine what exactly happened,” he said.
The criminal investigation will involve both homicide and narcotics detectives, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner told reporters.
Houston is known for staging high profile events, but the city had never experienced anything “of this magnitude that any of us can recall,” Turner added.
More than 300 people were treated on the scene for minor injuries in the first night of the two-day Astroworld Festival, which Scott helped organize, authorities said.
Scott halted his act several times when he saw fans in distress near the stage.
Scott ‘absolutely devastated’
Survivors described chaotic scenes of people squeezed up against one another with many struggling to breathe.
Gavyn Flores, 18, said he was standing on the edge of the crowd near a barricade and could not move, for hours on end. He said he tried to hoist people over that wall.
“People were trying to get out, but you can’t move. So there kind of wasn’t a point of trying to get out, because they couldn’t. But if they could, we were trying to help them get thrown over,” Flores told AFP.
“I am absolutely devastated by what took place last night,” Scott tweeted Saturday. “My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival.”
More than 520 police officers and 750 security guards were on hand for the festival. Finner discouraged speculation about rumours that a concertgoer had injected other attendees with drugs.
However, he confirmed that one security officer who was restraining an individual felt a prick in his neck before passing out.
He was administered NARCAN, used to treat opioid overdoses, and medical staff noted a mark similar to an injection site on his neck.
‘Some type of cardiac arrest’
Houston police said the tragedy, which began escalating around 9:30 pm local time (0230 GMT Saturday), unfolded quickly.
“Over the course of just a few minutes, suddenly we had several people down on the ground experience some type of cardiac arrest,” assistant police chief Larry Satterwhite said.
Videos shared on social media showed paramedics resuscitating unconscious fans in the audience as the concert continued.
Astroworld organisers cancelled the rest of the festival, which had been scheduled to continue on Saturday.
Other footage on social media showed scores of people rushing the gates at NRG park, with security unable to contain the flow.
Several people could be seen falling over, bringing down the metal detectors at the arena entrance.
Astroworld music festival
Scott launched the Astroworld music festival in 2018.
The 29-year-old rapper, a Houston native who has a child with celebrity socialite Kylie Jenner, made his breakthrough in 2013 and has had six Grammy nominations.
Other performers scheduled to play at the festival over the weekend included the rappers Chief Keef and 21 Savage, as well as the Australian rock band Tame Impala.
During Scott’s headline set late Friday, he was joined onstage by Canadian rap superstar Drake.
Francois Picard © Agence France-Presse