Travis Scott wasn’t aware of fatal incident, lawyer says

November 12, 2021
Travis Scott performs at Day 1 of the Astroworld Music Festival at NRG Park in Houston on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021.
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Travis Scott’s lawyer said his client wasn’t aware of the full scale of the Astroworld tragedy that claimed nine lives and injured many others until the following day.

Edwin F. McPherson appeared on “Good Morning America” Friday to clarify the mass casualty incident at Astroworld was “obviously a systemic breakdown” and people need to wait for police to finish their investigation before “we start pointing fingers at anyone.” 

Scott’s attorney said the artist nor his crew were ever informed that officials had declared the concert a mass casualty event.

“He’s up there trying to perform. He does not have any ability to know what’s going on down below,” McPherson said. “Travis didn’t really understand the full effect of everything until the next morning. Truly, he did not know what was going on.”

Though Scott stopped the Nov. 5 show a couple times for an ambulance to get by and for another individual who was down, when Scott is on stage “he can’t hear anything, he can’t see anything” due to the lights in his face and music blasting in his ear monitor, McPherson said.

More:Astroworld Festival victims remembered in somber vigil, as officials press for answers

Scott’s lawyer also spoke to his artist’s history of inciting crowds. Often times, the rapper encourages his concert-goers to get rowdy, and Scott has been arrested at least two times for inciting riots and disorderly conduct at his shows. 

“Travis as an artist has really grown up a lot. I have spoken personally to him about this and he really didn’t understand the magnitude of his power up on the stage as a young performer,” McPherson said. “He’s really matured over the years.”

He said when Scott told the crowd to “rage” the night of the Astroworld incident, he just wanted the audience to be engaged and have a good time. 

As the details of one of the deadliest concert disasters in U.S. history continue to surface, here’s everything else we know so far.

Bharti Shahani becomes ninth victim of Astroworld; victims of the incident include an aspiring model, students

Nine deaths were confirmed with victims ranging in age between 14 and 27. They are Mirza Danish Baig, 27; Rodolfo Peña, 23; Madison Dubiski, 23; Bharti Shahani, 22; Axel Acosta Avila, 21; Franco Patino, 21; Jacob Jurinek, 20; Brianna Rodriguez, 16; and John Hilgert, 14. 

Among the victims were an aspiring model (Peña), a man who died trying to save his fiancee (Baig), best friends (Acosta and Patino) and a girl who loved to dance (Rodriguez). Many of them were students at various high schools and universities. 

The death of 22-year-old college student Shahani brought the tragic concert’s toll to nine Thursday after scores of other attendees faced injuries, and leaving at least one other hospitalized. Shahani was pronounced dead Wednesday evening at a Houston hospital after being kept alive on a ventilator. 

During a press conference Thursday, Shahani’s family tearfully paid tribute to her while asking the public to “pray for everyone who lost their lives that night” and their families.

What went wrong at Astroworld? Expert: It took ‘everything going wrong, like dominoes’

A 9-year-old is in a coma after being separated from his dad at the festival

Hundreds of people were treated for injuries on-site and at least 13 were hospitalized, including a 9-year-old boy who attended the festival with his father but became separated as the crowd became dangerously packed, according to family members.

Bernon Blount said his grandson, Ezra, was in a medically induced coma on Tuesday at a Houston hospital and that the boy’s heart, lungs and brain were injured in the melee.

“My son, once he had passed out from the pressure being applied to him during the concert, he passed out and Ezra fell into the crowd,” Blount told The Associated Press. “When my son awakened, Ezra wasn’t there.”

Lawsuits claim ‘profits’ over safety

Concertgoers have filed at least 17 lawsuits and Scott was named in at least 14 of the personal injury lawsuits filed in Harris County, Texas, by Astroworld attendees, alleging negligence and gross negligence. Each civil suit seeks over $1 million in damages and a jury trial.

“Tragically, due to Defendants’ motivation for profit at the expense of concertgoers’ health and safety, and due to their encouragement of violence, at least 8 people lost their lives and scores of others were injured at what was supposed to be a night of fun,” reads one of the complaints, filed on behalf of injured Astroworld attendee Manuel Souza.

Famed civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump filed on behalf of survivor Noah Gutierrez. Gutierrez described a scene of “chaos and desperation,” Crump said.

More:Travis Scott facing lawsuits, out at Day N Vegas after Astroworld tragedy: Here’s what we know

“We are hearing horrific accounts of the terror and helplessness people experienced,” Crump said in a statement. “The horror of a crushing crowd and the awful trauma of watching people die while trying to save them.”

Crump was joined by attorney Alex Hilliard for a Friday press conference posted on Instagram and called the concert “nothing but criminal.”

 “A lot of our clients didn’t even understand when they bought their ticket … that they were buying their own death sentence,” Hilliard said. 

Lawsuits have also been filed on behalf of concert attendees Manuel Souza and Kristian Paredes. 

“There is no excuse for the events that unfolded at NRG stadium on Friday night,” Paredes’ attorney Thomas J. Henry said in a news release. “There is every indication that the performers, organizers, and venue were not only aware of the hectic crowd but also that injuries and potential deaths may have occurred. Still, they decided to put profits over their attendees and allowed the deadly show to go on.”

Travis Scott’s attorney accuses authorities of ‘finger pointing’ 

Scott’s attorney McPherson accused others, including Houston city officials, of “finger-pointing,” sending “inconsistent messages” and “(backtracking) from original statements” in a recent statement issued Wednesday to USA TODAY.

“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,” McPherson said.

A criminal investigation has been launched into the event and multiple lawsuits have been filed against Scott and the promoter, Live Nation Entertainment.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted Saturday after the event she will be pushing for “an objective and independent investigation into what happened.” 

Astroworld security guard wasn’t injected with drugs, police chief says

On Wednesday, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner offered clarity on a security guard who was rumored to have been injected with drugs during the Nov. 5 melee. Finner said the guard was not injected with anything, but was struck in the head and knocked unconscious. Police are still investigating whether there were laced drugs at the concert, he added. 

More:Astroworld Festival tragedy spotlights best practices in crowd management

Finner said it was up to show promoter Live Nation Entertainment, not police, to “secure” two mosh pits directly in front of the stage, describing staffing records handed over by organizers as “just not good.” He emphasized that he was not placing any blame.

Finner also defended the Houston Police Department’s ability to conduct a fair investigation, saying “we investigate ourselves all the time.” Finner confirmed “around 530” police officers were onsite at the concert. The police chief, who said he spoke to Scott ahead of his concert Friday about security concerns, denied having a relationship with the rapper that would impede the investigation. 

“If you call meeting (Scott) twice a relationship… that’s not a close relationship to me. I’ve only spoken to him twice. Let’s put that to rest,” Finner said. 

Finner called the FBI a partner in the investigation, but said his department was taking the lead.

When asked why the police did not shut the show down immediately, Finner responded, “The ultimate authority to end the show is with production, and the entertainer. And that should be through communication with public safety officials.”

Finner later said on Twitter that when CPR was performed on the audience members, Houston police “told personnel in charge of the event to shut down the performance.” 

He declined comment on questions regarding a timeline of events on Friday, saying it was part of the ongoing investigation.

“Timelines are a major focus of the investigation right now,” Finner said. 

Festival’s operation plan was lacking

On Tuesday, a 56-page event operations plan for the festival, obtained by USA TODAY, revealed protocols in place for “multiple casualty incidents” as well as what to do in the case of an active shooter, bomb threats, severe weather and more.

The safety and security plan outlined an incident management plan including what to do in the case of “traumatic injury resulting in death.” Protocols included notifying event control and referring to the “suspected deceased victim” using the code “smurf” and never using the term “dead” or “deceased” over the radio.

What we know: Travis Scott’s lawyer slams ‘finger-pointing’ over Astroworld tragedy

EXCLUSIVE: ‘This is when it all got real’: Firefighter log reveals deadly moments at Astroworld

The plan for a multiple casualty incident said to establish communications and triage stations and notify hospitals of the need to prepare for incoming patients. Another section of the document outlined what to do if there was a “civil disturbance or riot” and listed tips for identifying dangerous crowd behavior. Guidance again included reporting activity to event control and requesting a supervisor.

The plan did not specifically address what to do in the case of a crowd surge.

Texas governor launches concert-safety task force

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement Wednesday announcing he would be forming the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety.

The task force will be led by the Texas Music Office director Brendon Anthony, who will have a team of safety experts, firefighters and music-industry experts. It will also have representatives from the state’s police chief and sheriff’s associations.

The purpose of the task force is to “develop meaningful solutions that will keep Texans safe while maximizing the joy of live music events.”

“Live music is a source of joy, entertainment, and community for so many Texans — and the last thing concertgoers should have to worry about is their safety and security,” said Governor Abbott in the statement.

Houston Fire Department lost contact with private medic group 

Houston fire officials – perched outside the festival grounds – had no way to directly communicate with medics from ParaDocs Worldwide, the festival medic group contracted to provide treatment to fans, USA TODAY reported Tuesday.

Houston fire officials shared two-way radios with police but only had cellphone numbers for ParaDoc medics – which didn’t work or weren’t answered in the frenzy of the night, fire officials said.

The breakdown in communication with ParaDocs cost the Houston Fire Department valuable minutes in launching a robust medical response as people were trampled, crushed and gasping for final breaths while authorities struggled to get information and create a rescue plan, fire officials said.

Interviews with senior fire officials and documents detailing the night’s events, including a 22-page medical plan filed by ParaDocs, reviewed by USA TODAY show how the severity of injuries rapidly escalated as Scott took the stage and how quickly ParaDocs was overwhelmed, forcing Houston fire officials to assume authority and deploy resources to the scene.

Thursday, USA TODAY exclusively revealed findings from an 11-page log written by firefighters as the night unfolded. The notes, filled in manually by Houston Fire officials in a command center, show how the festival began with crowds rushing over barricades and escalated into further chaos and how police, paramedics and others responded to the growing crisis.

Travis Scott issues refunds, responds to tragedy

Scott and festival organizers are issuing “full refunds” to all those who purchased tickets for Astroworld. 

The rapper was scheduled to perform at the Day N Vegas music festival this weekend, but has been replaced by Post Malone, the festival announced Monday night.

In a Thursday statement, Scott’s team said the rapper is “distraught” by the tragedy but will be working on providing aid to families who lost loved ones “as soon as possible.” 

“Travis Scott and his team have been actively exploring routes of connection with each and every family affected by the tragedy through the appropriate liaisons,” the statement read. “He is distraught by the situation and desperately wishes to share his condolences and provide aid … but wants to remain respectful of each family’s wishes on how they’d best like to be connected.” 

Scott first released a statement in response to the tragedy on Saturday morning saying he was “devastated” by what occurred. 

“My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival. Houston PD has my total support as they continue to look into the tragic loss of life,” he said. 

Later Saturday, Scott posted a distraught update on his Instagram Stories. “I just want to send out prayers to the ones that (were) lost last night. …… You know my fans … really mean the world to me and I always just want to leave them with a positive experience and any time I can make out anything that’s going on, I stop the show and help them get the help they need.”

Witnesses describe how the crowd surge unfolded

Houston authorities and witnesses described a crowd surge at the event that left eight dead and several others injured. 

The surge began shortly after 9 p.m. around the time that Scott, a festival headliner and founder, took the stage. As a timer clicked down to start the rapper’s performance, concertgoers pushed toward the stage, crowding the stage and leaving little room to move. Around 50,000 people were in attendance.

Witnesses described a complete security collapse at the venue. The crowd was “out of control” before the show ever opened, said concertgoer Julius Tlacuapa.

Ian James, who also attended the festival, shared his story with USA TODAY, describing the chaos. “As the music started, everyone charged forward, and it was like a vacuum as we all got sucked in closer to the front. That’s when things started taking a turn for the worse,” James wrote. “For 45 minutes I could not draw a full breath of air … If I had been any shorter, I would’ve suffocated.”

More:At Travis Scott’s Astroworld, I had to help lift shorter people up so they could breathe

Travis Scott has a history of concert accidents 

Scott launched the Astroworld festival in 2018, months after the release of his third studio album of the same name. Since then, the concert has occurred every year, except for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, at Houston’s NRG Park – the former location of Six Flags AstroWorld theme park.

His “Astroworld” album led Scott to receive multiple Grammy nominations, including best rap album and best rap song for his collaboration with Drake for “Sicko Mode.” He has been nominated eight times throughout his career. 

Scott has a reputation of high-energy performances and rowdy crowds. Concertgoers are often called “ragers” and say the explosive energy in the crowd is what makes the shows so popular and fun. Scott has been arrested at least two times – in 2015 and 2017 – for inciting riots and disorderly conduct at his shows. He pleaded guilty in both cases, the former resulting in a one-year probation and the latter he was ordered to pay court fees and restitution for two injured people.

The 29-year-old rapper has a 3-year-old daughter with Kylie Jenner, who announced in September that she’s pregnant with their second child.

Contributing: Elise Brisco, Nusaiba Mizan, Austin American-Statesman; Jennifer McClellan, Rasha Ali and Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY



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