(HOUSTON) — Several lawsuits have been filed so far against several parties connected to the deadly stage surge during Astroworld Festival at NRG Park in Houston, Texas, which left at least nine concertgoers dead and many more injured. Now, more than 100 victims of the tragedy are being represented in cases against event organizers, managers and performers.
Astroworld is a music festival founded by rapper Travis Scott and held annually in Houston. This year was the third Astroworld event, which hosted popular rappers and singers including SZA, Bad Bunny, Chief Keef and Tame Impala.
According to Houston Police and witness accounts, a wave of tens of thousands of people surged toward the stage when Scott — and later, rapper Drake — appeared. Concert attendees say they were pushed into one another from all sides, and as the crowd pressed its way forward, some began to fall, pass out and get trampled by others in the audience.
“You’re not moving yourself — it’s more of the crowd moving you, so you don’t have control of your body at that point,” said concertgoer Fatima Muñoz, who shared her experience with ABC News’ daily news podcast “Start Here.” “So when people start falling and losing their balance, it kind of becomes like a domino effect.”
“Somebody next to me started falling, and he kind of took me down with him. And that’s when I had fell right on the floor, and that’s when everybody started tumbling down, and I tried so hard to get up,” Muñoz said. “There’s just too much people like on me, like, they legit dog-pile on me. I was on the floor. Nobody helped. I tried screaming for my life. I tried screaming for help. Nobody helped nobody.”
Muñoz said she bit someone’s leg to bring attention to her laying on the floor and then two attendees helped her up and out of the crowd.
“If those two guys didn’t help me, I mean, I really could have been one of those people for sure,” she said.
The lawsuits, along with some witness accounts, allege that Scott continued to perform despite the presence of emergency vehicles in the audience.
Houston police say the investigation is active and in its early stages.
Lawsuits stack up against concert producers, venue
Live Nation Entertainment and ScoreMore Holdings, two concert production and entertainment companies that organized and produced the event, are being sued, as well as performers Scott and Drake. NRG Park’s venue management and operation agency, the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation, is also included as a defendant in the lawsuits.
The family of 21-year-old Axel Acosta, one of the people who died in the crowd surge, say they plan on joining a lawsuit as part of 35 total plaintiffs in a case to be filed by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee against the aforementioned organizers.
Buzbee cited a 2015 disorderly conduct charge against Scott, which he pleaded guilty to, stemming from that year’s Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago when he urged attendees to ignore security, ABC7 Chicago reported at the time.
“Certainly neither Travis Scott nor his handlers, entourage managers, agents, hangers on promoters, organizers or sponsors cared enough about Axel to make even minimal effort to keep him and the others at the concert safe,” Buzbee said in a press conference with the family Monday.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump and attorney Alex Hilliard are representing more than 100 victims from the Astroworld tragedy, including a 21-year-old attendee who helped lift people up from the floor amid the chaos. They accuse the event’s organizers and Scott of negligence in providing medical equipment, crowd control, safety precautions, adequate hiring and training of staff.
“We are hearing horrific accounts of the terror and helplessness people experienced — the horror of a crushing crowd and the awful trauma of watching people die while trying unsuccessfully to save them,” Crump said in a statement to ABC News. “We will be pursuing justice for all our clients who were harmed in this tragic and preventable event.”
Texas attorney Thomas J. Henry also filed a lawsuit against Scott and Drake, as well as Live Nation and NRG Stadium, on behalf of one of the surviving victims following Friday night’s tragedy.
Henry said he believes a message needs to be sent to “performers, venues and event organizers that a lackadaisical approach to event preparation and attendees safety is no longer acceptable.”
“Live musical performances are meant to inspire catharsis, not tragedy,” Henry said in a statement sent to ABC News. “Many of these concertgoers were looking forward to this event for months, and they deserved a safe environment in which to have fun and enjoy the evening. Instead, their night was one of fear, injury and death.”
Kherkher Garcia, LLP has also filed a lawsuit against event organizers and Scott on behalf of an attendee who the firm said “suffered serious bodily injuries when the uncontrolled crowd at the concert knocked him to the ground and trampled him.”
“He and those who promoted and supported this concert must take responsibility for their heinous actions,” Kherkher Garcia, LLP said in a statement to ABC News. “We intend to hold them fully accountable by showing that this behavior will not be tolerated in our great city.”
Houston attorney Ricardo Ramos told reporters Tuesday night he also plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of as many as 30 concertgoers over alleged injuries and emotional distress, though the defendants are still being determined.
“They went there to have a good time, and they went there to have some fun,” Ramos said. “In return, probably it was the biggest nightmare they have ever experienced.”
Scott and organizers react
Following the concert, Scott released a statement on the tragedy on Twitter, saying, “I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night. My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld festival.”
Scott announced he will cover the funeral costs and further aid to individuals affected by the tragedy and will refund all of the Astroworld concertgoers and ticket holders. He has also said he is cooperating with investigators.
On Instagram, Scott’s girlfriend, Kylie Jenner, who attended the concert, defended Scott.
“I want to make it clear we weren’t aware of any fatalities until the news came out after the show and in no world would have continued filming or performing,” Jenner wrote in her post.
Drake on Monday night posted a statement on Instagram. “I’ve spent the past few days trying to wrap my mind around this devastating tragedy. I hate resorting to this platform to express an emotion as delicate as grief but this is where I find myself. My heart is broken for the families and friends of those who lost their lives and for anyone who is suffering,” he wrote. “I will continue to pray for all of them, and will be of service in any way I can. May God be with you all.”
In a statement to ABC News, Live Nation said it was working with law enforcement to get answers.
“We continue to support and assist local authorities in their ongoing investigation so that both the fans who attended and their families can get the answers they want and deserve, and we will address all legal matters at the appropriate time,” Live Nation said.
Legal analysts, including civil litigation attorney Danielle Cohen Higgins and ABC News’ Dan Abrams, say there are many questions that need to be answered about what exactly happened at the festival.
Higgins said event organizers are going to have to answer for the safety precautions, crowd control procedures and other policies that play a big role in event planning.
“If Live Nation created an environment where they reasonably should have anticipated that a surge was possible — that’s a problem for Live Nation. They are the experts in creating this environment,” Higgins said in an interview with ABC News.
NRG Park representatives declined ABC News’ request for comment.
Higgins and Abrams also pointed out that in 2019, three people were also hospitalized at Astroworld after being trampled when thousands of people rushed to get into the event.
Following that 2019 incident, Houston police tweeted: “We are successfully working together to support Houston’s biggest music festival @astroworldfest at @nrgpark and collaborating closely with the festival to ensure the public safety of everyone attending the event. We look forward to a memorable night.”
Abrams, when asked on Good Morning America about what stands out to him the most about this tragedy, said any of Scott’s actions and comments at the concert could affect these cases.
“There’s going to be social media videos of every moment of that show,” Abrams said. “Every single second will have been documented, so we’ll know exactly what he said and when he said it.”
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