Why did the show go on? Astroworld timeline looks at when officials knew something was wrong

Nearly 40 minutes after 'mass casualty' was declared at Astroworld Festival at NRG Park, Travis Scott continued to perform

ByTom Abrahams WLS logo
Monday, November 8, 2021
Breakdown of how disaster began at Astroworld Festival
After 8 people were killed in the Astroworld Festival chaos, a question that is still unanswered is why did the concert continue? Our partners at the Houston Chronicle delved into a timeline of events and worked to uncover who knew what.

HOUSTON, Texas -- Nearly 40 minutes after Houston police declared that they were responding to a 'mass casualty incident' at the Astroworld Festival at NRG Park Friday night, rapper Travis Scott continued to perform.

Now many want to know why the show didn't stop and how much promoters knew as the event turned deadly.

The Houston Chronicle broke down the chaos that occurred, focusing on a 37-minute window between when first responders were aware of the danger and reported it, and when Scott's set finally ended.

According to the Chronicle's Harris County reporter Zach Despart, who spoke to ABC13's Tom Abrahams, HPD said that Live Nation agreed to cut the show short, but it's unclear what happened with the promoters after that conversation.

"Like I said, the concert continued for 37 more minutes. Travis got up here to play his whole set list. His set was about the same length as it was in the 2019 Astroworld, so it's not clear to us if the promoters had followed through on that pledge, if there was some sort of miscommunication with the police. But a significant period of time had passed, during which the concert didn't end," he said.

Despart explains that the 37-minute window was important because as the show rolled on, it meant that first responders could not properly reach people who needed to be transported and receive medical attention.

But there seemed to be warning signs of trouble hours before Scott took the stage.

Before the show:

At about 2 p.m. Friday, a stampede burst through the gates on festival grounds. The VIP security checkpoint was destroyed as people blew past, some trampling each other.

The video showed some people helping a few others up. Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña told CNN he didn't know what caused the rush.

"We do know that we had people jump the fence," and at least one person was injured in the afternoon rush, Peña said.

CNN asked Peña whether the instance led to special precautions at this year's event. "It's obvious that if they did, they weren't enough," Peña responded.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner visited Scott, who also acted as an event organizer, before his set to express "concerns about the energy in the crowd," according to reporting from The New York Times citing a source familiar with the chief's account.

CNN has reached out to Houston police and representatives for Scott for comment on The New York Times report.

Before 9 p.m. Central Time:

Madeline Eskins, an ICU nurse attending the show, told CNN's Christi Paul a countdown timer began around 30 minutes before Scott was set to appear on stage.

"And all of a sudden, people compressed up against each other and were pushing forward and backward. As the timer got closer to coming down to zero, it just -- it got worse and worse," Eskins said.

Concertgoer Jeffrey Schmidt said breathing became more difficult as the countdown moved closer to zero, as he and his friend decided to try and get out of the crowd.

"Little did we know, all hell was about to break loose. People started to pass out and fall to the ground," Schmidt told CNN.

Just after 9 p.m.

Scott took the stage to begin his set. The crowd surged forward as the show began, according to one concertgoer.

"The crowd became tighter and tighter, and at that point it was hard to breathe. When Travis came out performing his first song, I witnessed people passing out next to me," TK Tellez said.

Sarai Sierra, who went to the festival to celebrate her birthday, said she saw multiple people who could not breathe after Scott appeared on stage.

"I truly thought that if I fell it would've been the end of me. I spent at least 15 minutes just getting pushed around due to mosh pits or simply because people were 'raging,'" Sierra said.

9:30 p.m.

Officials first receive reports of people falling injured in the crowd, according to Peña, and said they "requested additional resources to the scene."

Finner said Saturday at a press conference "our people stepped up and immediately went to the producers and told them, 'Hey, people are going down.'"

9:38 p.m.

A "mass casualty event" was officially declared, Peña said.

"From the time that the mass casualty incident was declared, to the first unit on scene, was two minutes when we began to make patient contact," he said.

Witnesses describe calling out for help but being unable to be heard over the music.

"Travis Scott would have a short time in between songs, and we would scream our vocal cords out, so someone could hear us but nobody did," Tellez said. "This year's festival will be stuck with me forever. I've never seen someone die in front of my eyes. It was horrific."

Scott maintains he had no idea about the severity of what was happening in the crowd as he continued his set, telling fans in an Instagram video Saturday night he is "devastated" by what happened.

"Any time I could make out, you know, anything that's going on, you know, I just stopped my show and, you know, helped them get the help they need," Scott says in the video.

Footage from the concert's live stream also showed Scott pausing his performance and looking on in apparent confusion as an ambulance pulled into the crowd before finishing the concert.

Concertgoers Nick Johnson and Angel Rodriguez told CNN Scott stopped the show on at least three occasions to ask for help for those in the crowd.

When asked why the show was not stopped sooner, Finner cited potential rioting "when you have a group that's young" in a crowd of roughly 50,000 people.

Finner said there was a "discussion between promoters, the fire department, the police department, and NRG officials" about stopping the event.

Around 10:10 p.m.

The performance was stopped and the event came to an end, according to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. One concertgoer told CNN's Rosa Flores he looked at his watch when the concert ended, and it indicated "10:13 or 10:14 p.m."

Attendees also told the Chronicle that Scott played his full set and the show didn't end until 10:15 p.m.

According to Despart, a warning about danger at the festival was never announced on the PA system or video boards.

The-CNN-Wire & 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company, contributed to this report. All rights reserved.