NATIONAL NEWS

Despite 3 trampled in previous Astroworld Festival, no plans included for contingency for deadly surge

Nov 8, 2021, 4:36 PM | Updated: 4:44 pm
Travis Scott performs on day one of the Astroworld Music Festival at NRG Park on Friday, Nov. 5, 20...
Travis Scott performs on day one of the Astroworld Music Festival at NRG Park on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in Houston. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
(Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

(CNN) — A detailed operations plan for the Astroworld music festival in Houston didn’t include a specific contingency for a surging crowd incident despite three people being trampled and hospitalized at the same festival in 2019.

Eight people in the crowd of more than 50,000 died Friday night after a crowd surge, authorities said.

In November 2019, three people were trampled and hospitalized as thousands rushed to get into the festival. The victims were taken to the hospital with leg injuries, and the event continued as planned.

In a 56-page document obtained by CNN, concert organizers this year addressed broad concerns about the sold-out, two-day event headlined by rapper Travis Scott.

“Based on the site’s layout and numerous past experiences, a Security Plan has been established to help mitigate potential negative issues within the scope of the festival,” the document states. “The potential for multiple alcohol/drug related incidents, possible evacuation needs, and the ever-present threat of a mass casualty situation are identified as key concerns.”

Among the scenarios addressed in the plan are incidents involving an active shooter, severe weather and a possible riot or civil unrest.

Addressing concerns of a large crowd, the plan outlines, “the key in properly dealing with this type of scenario is proper management of the crowd from the minute the doors open.” And adds, “Crowd management techniques will be employed to identify potentially dangerous crowd behavior in its early stages in an effort to prevent a civil disturbance/riot.” Those techniques are not further specified in the plan.

In another section, the plan details actions to be taken in case of an incident involving fatalities. According to the plan, concert organizers advise staff to notify Event Control using the code “smurf” for a suspected deceased victim. “Never use the term ‘dead’ or ‘deceased’ over the radio,” the plan states.

Furthermore, the plan lays out a clear chain of command in case of an incident, identifying the role of the executive producer as well as the festival director as the only individuals with the authority to stop the concert.

Paul Wertheimer, founder and president of Crowd Management Strategies, told CNN the industry knows the dangers of crowd surge. He said you need a specific plan to deal with the potential of crowd crushing.

“It doesn’t even really appear in what is the equivalent of the Astroworld’s crowd management plan,” he said. “There’s no reference to crowd surge, crowd crush, crowd panic. there’s no reference to the front of the stage and festival seating crowd. And therefore, there’s no specific emergency planning for a mass casualty crowd crush event.”

The plan is mostly boilerplate, he said, but it does reference a risk assessment plan.

“We need to see that risk assessment plan,” he said, adding it should contain how organizers planned to mitigate the possibility of events that had occurred at previous Travis Scott concerts.

Houston police Chief Troy Finner said he met with Scott and the rapper’s head of security shortly before Friday’s concert to express concerns about public safety. The meeting was first reported by The New York Times. CNN has reached out to Scott’s representatives for comment.

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Despite 3 trampled in previous Astroworld Festival, no plans included for contingency for deadly surge