Houston, November 10 (AP) Contingency plans for the Astroworld music festival did not include protocols for dangerous crowd influxes like the one that unfolded during a rush to see headliner Travis Scott, who killed eight and injured hundreds more, including a 9-year-old boy whose family said he was in a coma.
The concert area in Houston where a crowd of fans crowded during the rapper’s performance on Friday night remains largely in place as authorities continue a criminal investigation. More than 20 lawsuits have already been filed, accusing organizers of failing to properly take crowd or staff control measures.
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Houston Police, along with firefighters, played a key role in securing the sold-out show which drew 50,000 people. The Houston Fire Union chief fired back Tuesday, saying firefighters were not present inside the festival and had not been given a radio to communicate directly with organizers.
Hundreds of people were treated on site for injuries and at least 13 were hospitalized. They included a 9-year-old boy who attended the festival with his father but broke up as the crowd got dangerously packed, according to family members.
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Bernon Blount said his grandson Ezra was in an induced coma in a Houston hospital on Tuesday and the boy’s heart, lungs and brain were injured in the melee.
“My son, once he passed out from the pressure put on him during the concert, he passed out and Ezra fell into the crowd,” Blount told The Associated Press. “When my son woke up, Ezra was not there.”
A 56-page event operations plan for the Astroworld music festival included protocols for dangerous scenarios including an active shooter, bomb or terrorist threats, and extreme weather conditions. But it didn’t include information on what to do in case of an influx of crowds.
“In any situation where large groups of people gather, there is a risk of civil unrest / riots which can pose a serious risk to the safety and security of employees and guests,” the plan states.
“The key to successfully handling this type of scenario is good crowd management as soon as the doors open. Crowd management techniques will be used to identify potentially dangerous crowd behavior in its early stages with the aim of preventing a civil disturbance / riot. “
Experts say crowd influx deaths occur because people are crammed into a space so tightly that they are in a hurry and cannot get oxygen. It is not usually because they are being trampled.
Authorities said part of their investigation will include verifying whether the concert promoter and others behind the festival have adhered to the submitted plans.
Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, said firefighters asked festival organizers for a radio so they could be in direct contact with each other. Lancton said firefighters were given a list of cell phone numbers to call in an emergency.
“We don’t use cell phones for emergencies. We use radios. We need direct contact because as situations unfold, seconds count, ”said Lancton.
He said a group of four firefighters were parked inside a mobile command van in a nearby parking lot from 7 a.m. on Friday. Without direct communication with festival organizers, firefighters inside the van monitored six different radio frequencies to keep tabs on what was going on, he said.
Festival organizers had contracted with New York-based ParaDocs to manage all of the festival’s medical services. A 22-page plan the company submitted to local authorities ahead of the festival said it estimated the number of participants at 70,000 – more than the actual number of spectators – and forecast a daily staff of more than 80 rescuers, medics , registered nurses and supervisors.
ParaDocs said in a statement Tuesday that the company had been “groomed for the size of the venue and the expected audience with a team of doctors and EMTs” and was cooperating with investigators.
Houston Police and Fire Department investigators said they were reviewing surveillance video provided by concert promoter Live Nation, as well as dozens of clips of people on the show which were shared widely across networks. social.
Scott, who founded the Astroworld festival, said he would cover the funeral costs of the victims. The dead were between 14 and 27 years old and were from Texas, Illinois and Washington state, Harris County officials said. They included high school students, an aspiring border patrol officer and a computer science student.
Astroworld’s event operations and emergency medical response protocols filed with Harris County and obtained by the AP indicate that “potential for multiple alcohol / drug incidents, possible evacuation needs and the ever-present threat of a situation of large numbers of casualties are identified as key concerns. “
The festival took place in a parking lot that is part of the NRG Park, a complex made up of stadiums, an arena and a convention center.
Lawyers representing those injured or killed during the festival were allowed access to the event grounds on Tuesday to inspect and photograph the site. Ryan MacLeod, who represents several people injured during the concert, said the area around which Scott had his concert didn’t appear to have room for people to exit once they entered.
There is a long history of similar disasters at concerts, as well as sporting and religious events. In 1979, 11 people were killed as thousands of fans attempted to enter Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum to attend a Who’s concert.
Other crowd disasters include the deaths of 97 people during a football match at Hillsborough Stadium in 1989 in Sheffield, England, and numerous disasters related to the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. (PA)
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