HOUSTON – Rodolfo Peña, 23, was an aspiring model and psychology student from Laredo, Texas, who dreamed of one day becoming a U.S. Border Patrol agent or seeing where his charm and good looks would take him.
On Friday, he and some friends drove the five hours from Laredo to Houston to blow off steam at the Travis Scott show at the Astroworld music festival. By Saturday afternoon, his family was making funeral arrangements for him.
Peña was one of eight people who died Friday night when thousands of concertgoers rushed to the stage to see Scott, overwhelming security and creating a chaotic nightmare.
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His older brother, Guadalupe Peña, said authorities told the family only that his brother died of cardiac arrest while at the show.
“He’s a real strong person,” he told USA TODAY. “I know he would have gotten out of it. It seems real sketchy how it happened.”
Twenty-five people were transported to the hospital, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Saturday, and 13 are still hospitalized. A 10-year-old is in critical condition, officials said. There were scores of other injuries. At least 11, like Peña, suffered cardiac arrest.
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The victims who died ranged in age from 14 to 27, Turner said. Turner did not identify those who were killed in the incident and said family members of six of the eight victims have been notified. Autopsies will be performed before the victims are released to their families, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said.
John Hilgert, 14, the youngest casualty of the Friday stampede, was a ninth grade student at Memorial High School in Northwest Houston, according to a letter sent out by school administrators to parents.
“Our hearts go out to the student’s family and to his friends and our staff at Memorial,” Spring Branch ISD said in a statement. “This is a terrible loss, and the entire MHS family is grieving today.”
A 16-year-old junior at Heights High School in Houston, Brianna Rodriguez, was also killed, according to KTRK-TV in Houston. “Dancing was her passion,” said a GoFundMe post in Rodriguez’s honor. “Now she’s dancing her way to heaven’s pearly gates.”
A Dallas-area man, 27-year-old Mirza Danish Baig, died trying to save his fiancee Olivia Swingle, 25, from the crush of the crowd, according to news outlets whose reporters spoke with his brother. His funeral was scheduled for Sunday, his brother said.
Baig’s brother, Ammar Baig, told People that his brother was separated from Swingle amid the chaos but was trying to fend off the scores of people bulldozing toward her. Baig’s younger brother, Basil, was there and recounted the tragedy to Ammar.
“Somehow, the ambulance managed to get to her, and then, by the time they got to my brother, they tried resuscitating him. And they said that before they got to the hospital, he couldn’t make it,” Ammar Baig said.
In a Facebook post, Basil Mirza Baig said the event was “horribly managed” and put some of the blame on Scott, whom he said “provoked these people.”
“He called people to the stage to jump into the crowd and did not stop the show,” Baig said. “I was there and i wasnt able to save my brother.”
Mirza Danish Baig, his brother said in the post, always put others before himself and showed courage in trying to save his fiancee. She is bruised and traumatized, he told CNN.
Franco Patino, 21, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering technology with a minor in human movement biomechanics at the University of Dayton in Ohio, also died in the melee, according to a statement by the university.
“A member of Alpha Psi Lambda, a Hispanic interest fraternity, Franco was active in the Greek and (multiethnic) communities on campus,” the statement read. “He was also a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at UD, active in the ETHOS (service-learning) program, and was currently working in an engineering coop program in Mason, Ohio.”
“They were planning (to go to the event) for months. Franco was saving up money for it, so was Jacob,” Julio Patino, Franco’s older brother, told People. “And he was very excited. He was telling all his friends and family, ‘I’m going to go and see Travis Scott and Bad Bunny.'”
Jurinek was a junior at Southern Illinois University Carbondale studying art and media.
“Always deeply committed to his family, he was affectionately known as ‘Big Jake’ by his adoring younger cousins, a name befitting of his larger-than-life personality,” the family said in a statement shared by People.
Another college student, Axel Acosta Avila, died after traveling alone from Washington state to see the concert, his father told KTRK. Avila’s body was recovered without identification, and authorities had released a picture of him, which his family used to identify him. Avila, 21, was studying computer science at Western Washington University.
Guadalupe Peña said the hardest part is not knowing all the details of what exactly happened to his brother on Friday night. He shared details of his brother’s life in the lobby of a Houston hotel Saturday, as his mother paced nearby, wailing occasionally.
“The one who’s suffering the most is his mom,” he said.
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The youngest of five siblings, Rodolfo Angel Peña had been a star wide receiver at Nixon High School in Laredo and was in his last year at Laredo College, his brother said. He was taking psychology courses, hoping to score a well-paying job with Border Patrol or with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He also worked as a chiropractic therapist.
He was well-known and beloved throughout Laredo, said Eduardo Peña, his other brother. “Everyone knew him,” he said.
Rodolfo Peña loved dancing and was into fashion, Guadalupe Peña said. And he loved music. He attended the last Astroworld Festival in 2019, but this was his first Travis Scott concert, he said.
The family was planning a funeral for him in Laredo. They still have a lot of questions about how his brother died, Guadalupe Peña said.
“He came up yesterday for the concert,” he said. “Next thing we know, he’s gone.”
Dubiski attended the concert with her younger brother Ty Dubiski who is reported to have attempted pulling his sister to safety before the two got separated in the crowd.
Dubiski’s former high school classmate and cheerleading teammate described her as “super bright” and “all-around sweet girl.
“I cheered with her when we were younger, and she was always so encouraging. She was definitely the life of the party and loved by so many people,” Lauren Vogler told the Houston Chronicle.
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