One of the most high-profile investigations in entertainment, Travis Scott’s Astroworld tragedy, will carry over into 2022 as investigators continue to look into the deadly festival and as lawsuits mount.
When Scott took the stage to close out the 2021 Astroworld Music Festival, the crowd was already densely packed with fans looking to get a glimpse of the headlining performer. Many of them sneaked into the venue throughout the day. Authorities have said 50,000 people attended the event in Houston, Texas. Over 300 people were treated at an on-site field hospital at NRG Park, and at least 13 were later hospitalized after the crowd reportedly surged forward.
Many questions remain about how and why it happened.
The Houston medical examiner’s office announced earlier this month that it had completed its investigation into the cause of death of the victims. It determined that the victims died of “compression asphyxia,” according to documents from the office obtained by Fox News Digital.
All the deaths were ruled accidental. However, many still wonder if perhaps these deaths could have been prevented and what, if any, culpability the “Sicko Mode” rapper has for not stopping the show.
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As questions mount entering 2022 about what happened at Astroworld and how to prevent similar tragedies in the future, here’s a refresher on where the investigation stands.
Almost immediately, Travis Scott’s reported relationship with the city of Houston as well as with Mayor Sylvester Turner and Police Chief Troy Finner raised questions about the impartiality of the principal body investigating the Astroworld tragedy.
The rapper, as well as the Astroworld Festival, are staples in the Houston community. Scott, whose real name is Jacques Bermon Webster, was born and raised in Houston and continues to have close ties to the city. He often uses his celebrity status to help the Houston community.
He reportedly spent the days leading up to the 2021 Astroworld Festival doing charity work and announcing partnerships with local organizations to provide support to youths in the city.
Finner has previously noted he is a personal friend of Scott’s and spoke with him about the potential for danger in the Astroworld crowd prior to the show. Finner later disputed the claim that he has a close relationship with Scott, stating they only met twice prior to Astroworld.
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On Nov. 5, Houston Police officers were on the ground at Astroworld with direct communication to first responders. Chief Finner noted during a press conference at the time that 528 officers were present at the Astroworld Festival to supplement the 755 security officers that Live Nation says were present.
A spokesperson for the Houston Police Department confirmed to Fox News that several other officers were moonlighting for the event to provide additional security. As a result, any investigation into what happened in the audience or a breakdown among crowd control tactics comes with some degree of the Houston Police Department investigating itself, leading to objectivity questions.
The Houston Police Department has not deemed it necessary to bring in outside investigators. The FBI confirmed to Fox News Digital shortly after the tragedy that it had offered its assistance. However, the police department has not taken the agency up on its offer.
County Judge Lina Hidalgo — the top elected official in Harris County, which includes Houston — had previously proposed a third-party probe that would look at the planning and execution of crowd control tactics at the festival. However, in November, Houston-area officials instead opted to have a county administrator conduct a review along with other government entities.
But it seems the federal government has stepped in to launch an investigation of its own. The House Oversight and Reform Committee recently sent a letter to Live Nation Entertainment Inc.’s president and CEO, Michael Rapino, asking for information about the company’s role in the music festival. The committee seems to be focusing on the preparation as well as execution of existing safety protocols at Astroworld 2021.
Days after the tragedy, lawsuits began pouring in over Astrowold injuries and deaths. Scott and Live Nation were all named in various lawsuits that cropped up throughout the month of November.
It didn’t take long before Scott and others were facing lawsuits in the hundreds. Attorney Ben Crump brought a lawsuit on behalf of more than 100 victims a week after the incident, claiming all of them had been injured “mentally, physically and psychologically” following the festival.
In the first week of December, the Board of Judges of the Civil Trial Division of the Harris County District Courts in Houston granted a request by attorney Brent Coon to have all pretrial matters – in the now more than 300 lawsuits – handled by one judge. If any of the lawsuits go to trial, the case would return to its original court.
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All pretrial motions and issues in the lawsuits will be heard by state District Judge Kristen Hawkins.
The youngest victim was 9-year-old Ezra Blount. The others who died ranged in age from 14 to 27, many of whom were named in the lawsuits. Some 300 people were injured and treated at the festival site and 25 were taken to hospitals.
Coon, who is representing about 2,000 concertgoers and is asking for $10 billion in damages, made his consolidation request last month. He said that having all the cases before one judge will create efficiency, eliminate redundancy and spread costs in the cases to everyone involved in the litigation.
Scott’s attorneys filed his first response to the lawsuits in early December. The rapper denies the allegations against him and is asking that the cases be dismissed.
Scott quickly faced criticism for not stopping the concert as people were dying in his crowd. However, both he and his longtime girlfriend Kylie Jenner have stated publicly that he was completely unaware of how dire the situation in the crowd was from his vantage point on the stage. It wasn’t until he exited the stage that he was made aware that people were injured or dead.
Just days after the tragedy took place, he announced in a press release that he was immediately getting to work to support the victims. He offered to pay for the funeral expenses of everyone who died. In addition, he announced a partnership with the therapy service BetterHelp, which provided free one-on-one online therapy with a licensed therapist to those who wanted it after the concert. He was also working closely with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), MHA National (Mental Health America), and MHA of Greater Houston to direct all those in need to proper mental health services.
The rapper broke his silence for the first time in December in a nearly one-hour-long interview with Charlamagne Tha God. As he had done through his representatives, Scott, 30, maintained that he didn’t know what was happening until well after the concert had ended.
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“I didn’t know the exact details until minutes before the press conference [after my set],” the rapper claimed. “And even at that moment, you’re like, ‘Wait, what?’
“People pass out, things happen at concerts, but something like that ….”
Scott denied hearing any distress from the crowd that would have prompted him to stop the show sooner.
“It’s so crazy because I’m that artist too — anytime you can hear something like that, you want to stop the show,” Scott said. “You want to make sure fans get the proper attention they need. Anytime I could see anything like that, I did. I stopped it a couple of times to just make sure everybody was OK. And I really just go off the fans’ energy as a collective — call and response. I just didn’t hear that.”
Scott was also pressed on his reputation for promoting “raging,” noting that he tries to create an environment where his fans can let loose. However, he says people trust the organizers of such events to make it safe.
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“‘Raging’ … there’s not a textbook definition,” Scott suggested. “But in concerts, we’ve grown it to be just the experience of fun. It’s not about just … harm. It’s not about that. It’s about letting go and having fun, help others and love each other.”
Scott is also working with government and public safety officials to establish guidelines to ensure another tragedy like Astroworld’s never happens again.
Scott is using his position in the industry to bring together key stakeholders from government, public safety, emergency response, health care, event management, music and technology to establish clear guidelines that can be distributed to cities across the nation that will address potential safety issues.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.