Astroworld festival crowd crush claims another life

Bharti Shahani was a 22-year-old college senior.

A 22-year-old college senior who was critically injured at the Astroworld festival in Houston has died, the family’s lawyer said, making her the ninth person to die in a crowd surge after fans pushed toward the stage during a performance by headliner Travis Scott.

Bharti Shahani died, lawyer James Lassiter said during a news conference.

“Bharti was a shining star in the community,” Mr Lassiter said.

“She was a sister, a daughter, a high-achieving college student about to graduate from Texas A&M University with high, high grades.”

Hundreds of others were injured in the surge on Friday night as Scott took to the stage.

A criminal investigation into the deaths at Astroworld is under way.

Scott was only minutes into his headlining show at the Astroworld music festival when at least one Houston officer radioed over a police channel that the main stage had been compromised by a massive crowd surge.

The police radio traffic from the Friday night concert, obtained by the Houston Chronicle, reveals how quickly law enforcement became aware of the rising danger in the throng of concertgoers shortly after the star rapper began performing at the sold-out music festival, which drew about 50,000 people.

Visitors cast shadows at a memorial to the victims of the Astroworld concert (Robert Bumsted/AP)
Visitors cast shadows at a memorial to the victims of the Astroworld concert (Robert Bumsted/AP)

Hundreds of other fans were injured as a mass of bodies pressed toward the stage, and nearly a week later, at least two were still in critical condition.

They include a nine-year-old boy whose family says was placed in a medically induced coma.

Authorities have opened a criminal investigation but have not yet assigned any fault.

Scott took the stage in his hometown of Houston shortly after 9pm.

“Looks like folks are coming out of the crowd complaining of difficulty breathing, crushing-type injuries,” one official said over the police radio around 9:21pm, according to the audio obtained by the newspaper.

“Seems like the crowd is compressing on itself.”

Scott kept performing his set, which lasted about an hour.

His lawyers have said he did not know about the tragedy unfolding in the crowd until after the show.

The newspaper reported that officers spotted people leaving the crowd but that their voices remained calm through the first half hour.

“I’m at the medical tent,” one officer radioed in around 9:30pm.

“There’s a lot of people trampled and they’re passed out at the front stage.”

Later, another officer says: “We’re getting multiple reports of people getting injured. We have another report of cardiac situation with CPR by the stage.”

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said that police told organisers to shut down the performance when fans in the crowd were administered CPR.

Authorities gave word around 10:03pm that the concert was in the process of shutting down, but witnesses say Scott and Drake, the superstar rapper who came on toward the end of Scott’s set as a special guest, kept performing.

Mr Finner repeatedly refused to provide timelines in what was just his second press briefing since the tragedy, saying the case was still under investigation.

Travis Scott performs at Day 1 of the Astroworld Music Festival (Amy Harris/PA)
Travis Scott performs at Day 1 of the Astroworld Music Festival (Amy Harris/PA)

He said more than 500 officers were working the festival, more than double the number assigned in 2019, the last time the festival was held.

But Mr Finner said festival organisers had not provided clear records of how many private security guards were working the show, describing what they turned over as “just not good”.

It was up to Live Nation Entertainment, the show’s promoter, to secure two mosh pits in front of the stage, Mr Finner said.

Scott’s lawyers pointed to an operational plan for the event that states only the festival director and executive producers have the authority to stop the show, “neither of which is part of Travis’s crew”.

“Investigations should start proceeding over finger-pointing so that together, we can identify exactly what transpired and how we can prevent anything like this from happening again,” lawyer Edwin F. McPherson said in a statement.

Officials have not disclosed details about the fans who have been in hospital since Friday, but the family of a nine-year-old boy who attended the concert with his father has said the child was in a medically induced coma after sustaining injuries to his heart, lungs and brain.

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