The Washington Post

Most of the dead Astroworld victims were in one highly packed area, video timeline shows

At least seven of the 10 dead after the Astroworld Festival were clustered in a small area enclosed on three sides by metal barriers that became dangerously crowded, according to a Washington Post investigation.

The review — based on dozens of videos examined for when and where each was taken, interviews with witnesses, and an analysis by crowd experts — reveals how a crowd surge at a performance by rapper Travis Scott turned one pocket of the audience into an epicenter of chaos and distress.

Ten fans at the Nov. 5 concert in Houston died and dozens more were injured, making it one of the most deadly concerts in the nation’s history. The Post found that most of those who died were close to each other in the viewing area’s south quadrant, where witnesses described people collapsing under the pressure of the crowd.

A criminal investigation is ongoing, and the causes of the deaths have not been made public.

In parts of the tightly compressed area where many of the dead were concentrated, there were as little as 1.85 square feet per person, according to an analysis done by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University for The Post. At that density, people are amid a crowd that is at risk of dangerously collapsing in on itself, two crowd science experts said.

The Post’s reconstruction of the night’s events, including details evident in exclusively obtained videos, also underscores unanswered questions about how long the concert was allowed to continue after fans already were pleading for help and receiving emergency care.

Three concertgoers who died appeared unconscious in a pile of other fallen fans in the south quadrant only 16 minutes into the show, according to a video reviewed by The Post. The concert continued for nearly another hour.

The festival venue at NRG Park was a sprawling site, with a main stage where Scott was set to perform at 9 p.m. All other artists at the day-long festival performed at a secondary stage.

The audience area at the main stage was divided by metal barriers into quadrants to the north, south, east and west. The configuration of the barriers created narrow pathways used by security and medical personnel to move through the crowd during the concert.

The viewing area around the main stage started to fill up three hours before Scott’s performance, videos show.

Around 8:30 p.m., a concert by SZA at the secondary stage ended and the audience from that show began to stream toward the already-packed main stage area, especially the south section, witnesses said. As the crowd pressure increased, some concertgoers became caught in the current flowing toward the main stage, unable to move in the opposite direction.

Mohammed Amleh said he and a friend were pushed toward the south quadrant.

“We were trying to get out, but we just kept getting pushed forward and forward,” he said.

Three crowd experts said the influx into the already-packed quadrant, with its rigid barriers, would have compressed people, increasing the crowd density and giving fans inside the section little ability to exit.

The experts also faulted the layout of the barriers, saying it did not allow concert organizers to cut off the flow of people surging toward the stage.

“In general, that’s not a safe design because you can’t regulate the number of people who are in a high-pressure area,” said Keith Still, a visiting professor at the University of Suffolk who specializes in crowd safety and crowd risk analysis.

[Astroworld venue filed some plans to city only days before festival, records show]

To illuminate what happened amid the crowd, The Post gathered dozens of videos from that night.

Madison Dubiski, 23, staked out a spot shortly before the show began in an area near the middle of the south quadrant, according to a video obtained by The Post. Dubiski, who attended the concert with her brother, was among the 10 deaths.

Only yards away, 9-year-old Ezra Blount, who also died, was atop his father’s shoulders after the Scott concert began just after 9 p.m., according to a video that the family’s attorney confirmed shows Blount.

Around five minutes into the show in the same area of the south quadrant, people screamed in distress in a tightly packed pocket of the crowd, video shows. Rudy Peña, a 23-year-old college student who also died, is seen wedged among people who are fighting for space.

Danish Baig, 27, who also died, fell into a pile of fans near the middle of the quadrant shortly after the concert began, according to his fiancee, who survived and identified the spot through a lawyer representing his family.

“Every time someone would fall, it was like a domino effect,” said Michael Lyons, the attorney who relayed the fiancee’s account in an interview.

Video filmed around 16 minutes into the concert shows what appear to be several unconscious people lying atop each other near the center of the south quadrant — among them 21-year-old Axel Acosta, who was an engineering and computer science student.

Jacob Jurinek, 20, and Franco Patino, 21, whose identities were confirmed by their families through their attorney, also appear unconscious in the pile.

The attorney, Philip Corboy Jr. of Corboy & Demetrio, said Jurinek put his arms around two young women to shield them as “the surge became increasingly dangerous.”

Standing on an elevated platform behind the south quadrant, Eric Daniels witnessed the chaos unfolding between him and the stage.

“You could see the panic and fear in their eyes,” he said. “These fenced-off, corralled areas, they allowed nowhere to escape. It was one way in, one way out.”

At 9:18, a Houston firefighter outside the venue who was monitoring radio communication channels used inside the festival noted a “report of individual with crush injury/breathing difficulty,” according to a log obtained by The Post.

Around 9:27, video shows a woman being lifted from the south quadrant over a barrier into a narrow pathway, where medical staff check for her pulse and perform chest compressions.

Around the same time, Bill Nasser, a concertgoer, said he was trying to help the injured out of the south quadrant by lifting them over a barrier into a narrow passageway used by concert workers.

“People were literally on the floor getting their faces stomped in. … We were just trying to pull kids over that barricade,” he said.

At 9:43, a photo shows Peña, gravely injured and receiving medical attention in the south quadrant. His attorney told The Post that although the cause of death has not been determined, Peña’s face was disfigured from being stepped on.

The Houston fire incident commander declared the scene a mass casualty incident by 9:52 p.m., according to the Houston firefighters’ log, a trigger that doubled the number of responding firefighters.

The show ended around 10:12 p.m. with Scott closing it out, running about 72 minutes in all and continuing about 42 minutes after police first reported that multiple people had been trampled.

Shortly after the tragedy Scott said in a video, “Anytime I could make out anything that was going on, I stopped the show and helped them get the help they need.”

In a statement, Scott’s attorney said the performer “is distraught by the situation and desperately wishes to share his condolences and provide aid to” the families affected by the tragedy.

Promoter Live Nation said in a statement that it engages in extensive, detailed security planning and is assisting local investigations. “We are heartbroken by the events at Astroworld,” it said.

Houston’s police departments declined to answer specific questions for this report, citing the ongoing investigation. The Houston Fire Department did not provide answers to emailed questions. Astroworld and companies that provided security and medical care at the concert declined to comment or did not respond.

Watch the video above to see where many of the victims who died were amid the Astroworld Festival crowd.

Jon Swaine and Emily Davies contributed to this report.

About this story

The Washington Post reconstructed a 3-D model of the Astroworld Festival site using drone photos, satellite imagery, and maps from court documents.

Graphics by William Neff. Design and development by Jake Crump.

Shawn Boburg is a reporter for The Washington Post's investigative unit. He was previously an accountability reporter for the Metro section. He joined The Post in 2015.
Sarah Cahlan is a video reporter for The Washington Post's Visual Forensics team. Before joining the Post she was an NAHJ fellow at NBC News.
Joyce Sohyun Lee is a video reporter for The Washington Post's Visual Forensics team. Before joining the Post, she worked as an associate video producer for Time magazine.
Atthar Mirza is a graphics reporter and animator working on interactive storytelling.
Elyse Samuels is a video reporter for The Washington Post's visual forensics team. She joined The Post's video team in 2016 where she worked in breaking news, verification and in collaboration with the The Fact Checker.