Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Peña is warning that the death toll could rise following the tragedy at Travis Scott‘s Astroworld festival on Friday night (Nov. 5).
At press time, eight people died and about 300 were injured as Scott performed the closing set during the festival’s opening night at NRG Park in Houston, with fans surging toward the stage and pushing so close together that they reportedly couldn’t move their arms or breathe.
“What we know is that we have eight people who have died as a result of the injuries suffered at at that event,” Peña told MSNBC on Saturday morning. “That number may rise, because we did transport more people in critical condition. We took 11 that they were performing CPR on en route to the hospital.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said that the ages of those killed at the Live Nation-produced festival were between the ages of 16 and 23. The names of the casualties have not yet been made public. A press conference is set for 4 p.m. ET on Saturday with police, firefighters, Turner and others involved in the ongoing investigation.
During a press conference on Friday night, Peña said a “mass casualty” event occurred at 9:38 p.m. local time at NRG Park, with an estimated 50,000 people in attendance. He said trouble began shortly after 9 p.m. when “the crowd began to compress toward the front of the stage and that caused some panic and started causing some injuries. People began to fall out and become unconscious and that created additional panic.” Peña said Astroworld’s medical tent and staff was “quickly overwhelmed” by the scale of the incident, after which the Houston fire department stepped in and dispatched 50 units.
The fire chief added on Saturday morning that authorities “still don’t know what caused the initial surge of crowd up toward the stage, but the Houston Police Department is looking at video that was taken from cameras that were present there for security purposes and other reasons.”
Peña also noted that Scott and Live Nation made the call to “essentially pull the plug” on the event on Friday “when the when the situation started to escalate.” Astroworld representatives confirmed that the second day of the festival, schedule for Saturday evening, has been canceled as a result of the tragedy.
“We will be dissecting this thing in its entirety,” the fire chief said. “I’ve been doing this for 27 years and I have never seen something like this.”