NATIONAL NEWS

Dallas boy, 9, is youngest of 10 killed at Houston festival

Nov 15, 2021, 7:16 AM
People exit after attending Brianna Rodriguez's funeral service at the La Paz Memorial Funeral Home...
People exit after attending Brianna Rodriguez's funeral service at the La Paz Memorial Funeral Home on November 13, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Brianna Rodriguez, 16, and eight others were killed in a crowd surge during artist Travis Scott's Astroworld music festival. Several lawsuits have been filed against Scott, and authorities continue investigations around the event. Scott, a Houston-native rapper and musician, launched the festival in 2018. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

(AP) — A promising college student expected to graduate in the spring. A visitor from Washington state. And a 9-year-old boy who had been in a coma for more than a week.

The death toll stemming from a crowd surge during a Travis Scott performance at the Astroworld music festival in Houston rose to 10 on Sunday. The latest victim is also the youngest, 9-year-old Ezra Blount, of Dallas, who had been in a medically induced coma since Nov. 5.

The dead ranged from 9 to 27 years old. Hundreds more were injured.

City officials are investigating what caused the pandemonium at the sold-out event attended by about 50,000 fans. Scott, a rapper known for his high-energy concerts, has said he would cover funeral costs for the victims.

‘THEIR PRECIOUS YOUNG SON’

Ben Crump, an attorney representing the Blount family, said in a news release Sunday night that he was “committed to seeking answers and justice” on behalf of the family.

“The Blount family tonight is grieving the incomprehensible loss of their precious young son,” Crump said. “This should not have been the outcome of taking their son to a concert, what should have been a joyful celebration. Ezra’s death is absolutely heartbreaking.”

Treston Blount, Ezra’s father, described what happened Nov. 5 in a post on a GoFundMe page that he set up to help defray Ezra’s medical expenses. He said Ezra was sitting on his shoulders when a crowd surge crushed them. The father lost consciousness and when he came to, Ezra was missing, Blount said. A frantic search ensued until Ezra was eventually found at the hospital, severely injured.

The child incurred severe damage to his brain, kidney, and liver after being “kicked, stepped on, and trampled, and nearly crushed to death,” according to a lawsuit his family has filed against Scott and the event’s organizer, Live Nation. The Blount family is seeking at least $1 million in damages.

‘SUPER GLUE OF THE FAMILY’

Bharti Shahani, a high-achieving student at Texas A&M University, died Wednesday night, attorney James Lassiter said during a news conference with the family.

Shahani had been hospitalized since she was critically injured at the concert.

Bharti’s relatives described her as diligent in her electronics systems engineering studies and someone who always thought of others — including that she had signed up to donate her organs when she died.

Astroworld was supposed to be a rare escape, her sister Namrata Shahani said.

“For the first time in her life, she just wanted to have fun, and that was taken from her,” Namrata said.

Namrata said her sister’s last words to her were, “Are you OK?”

Her cousin, Mohit Bellani, attended the concert too. He said Shahani had two heart attacks on the way to the hospital. “Bharti was the glue of the family. She was the super glue of the family” he said.

‘LOVED HIS MOM’

Franco Patino, 21, was working toward a mechanical engineering technology degree at the University of Dayton, with a minor in human movement biomechanics, his father, Julio Patino, told The Associated Press. He was a member of Alpha Psi Lambda, a Hispanic interest fraternity, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and was working in an engineering co-op program.

Patino described his son as a charismatic, energetic leader who was active in his community and intent on helping people with disabilities. His son was working on a new medical device and wanted to find a way to help his mother walk again after she was severely injured in an automobile accident in Mexico two years ago, Patino said.

Through tears, Patino described how his son — who enjoyed weight lifting, football and rugby — used his strength to break a door and free his mom from the wreckage.

“He loved his mom,” Patino said. “He said everything that he was doing, it was trying to help his mom. The entire goal.”

Julio Patino, of Naperville, Illinois, was in London on business when the phone rang around 3 a.m. He answered it and heard his wife, Teresita, crying. She said someone had called from a hospital about Franco and that a doctor would be calling her soon. After 30 minutes, she called back with the doctor on the line.

“The doctor was giving us the news that our son had passed away,” Patino said.

Patino said he had last spoken with his son about 2 p.m. Friday, when he reassured his father he was fine.

“I just said, ‘OK, just be careful,’” Patino said.

‘HUGE HOLE IN OUR LIVES’

Jacob “Jake” Jurinek, 20, was a junior at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, where he was “pursuing his passion for art and media,” his family said in a statement Sunday. He was just short of his 21st birthday.

He was attending the concert with Patino, his friend and former high school football teammate, according to Patino’s father, Julio Patino. He was deeply committed to his family and was known as “Big Jake” by his younger cousins.

He will be missed by his father, Ron Jurinek, with whom Jake became especially close after his mother died in 2011.

“In the decade since, Jake and Ron were inseparable – attending White Sox and Blackhawks games, sharing their love of professional wrestling, and spending weekends with extended family and friends at Jake’s favorite place, the family cottage in Southwestern Michigan,” the family’s statement said.

“We are all devastated and are left with a huge hole in our lives,” his father, Ron Jurinek, added in an emailed statement.

‘GOOD STUDENT, ATHLETE, SO POLITE’

Memorial High School ninth-grader John Hilgert, 14, was the youngest of those who died. Mourners began tying green ribbons around trees at the school over the weekend in his memory.

He was at the concert with classmate Robby Hendrix, whose mother, Tracy Faulkner, spoke with the Houston Chronicle. The boys had hoped to get a good spot to watch the show.

“Everything about that night was a tragedy,” Faulkner told the newspaper. “John was a good student and athlete and so polite. He was the sweetest and smartest young man.”

‘LIFE OF THE PARTY’

Madison Dubiski, 23, lived in Houston. She was a varsity cheerleader in high school and member of a community service group called the National Charity League, according to a former classmate who spoke to the Houston Chronicle.

“She was definitely the life of the party and loved by so many people,” Lauren Vogler told the newspaper.

She was her mom’s best friend and she loved watching her brother play sports, family friend Claudia Sierra said.

‘HARD-WORKING MAN’

Mirza “Danish” Baig, who identified himself on Facebook as a district manager for AT&T, and appeared to be a devoted Dallas Cowboys fan, was among those who died at the the concert, his brother Basil Baig said on Facebook.

“He was (an) innocent young soul who would always put others before him. He was a hard-working man who loved his family and took care of us. He was there in a heartbeat for anything. He always had a solution to everything,” Basil Baig told ABC News.

Baig’s funeral was held Sunday in Colleyville in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. Messages left with Basil Baig were not returned.

County officials identified him as Mirza Baig, but his brother said on Facebook he went by Danish. He was 27.

LOVED TO DANCE

Brianna Rodriguez’s family told People magazine that she was among those who perished at the concert. She was 16, a student at Heights High School and loved dancing, according to the family the magazine spoke with. Her family has not responded to a message left by AP.

Outsider her school, pink ribbons and balloons adorned the fence, spelling out “Bri.”

“Brianna was someone who performed with the band and was someone who could always make anyone smile,” the Heights High School band said in a tweet.

Her high school dance team remembered her in an Instagram post, saying that she was with the group for three years, served as the junior social officer and “never failed to put a smile on everyone’s face.

“She was a wonderful friend, teammate, dancer, sister, daughter, and leader. The bulldog community is deeply saddened and will honor her in every way we can. We love you Brianna,” the team said in the post.

COMPUTER SCIENCE STUDENT

Axel Acosta Avila, 21, was a computer science major at Western Washington University. His father, Edgar Acosta, told KOMO-TV his son was among the victims who died at the festival.

The school in Bellingham, Washington, released a statement Sunday: “By all accounts, Axel was a young man with a vibrant future. We are sending our condolences to his family on this very sad day.”

Acosta Avila was initially identified by family with the single last name, Acosta, but his father said Monday that his full name should be used.

ASPIRING BORDER AGENT

Rodolfo “Rudy” Pena, 23, of Laredo, Texas, was a student at Laredo College and wanted to be Border Patrol agent, his friend Stacey Sarmiento said. She described him as a people person. Officials identified him as Rodolfo Pena, but friends called him Rudy.

“Rudy was a close friend of mine,” she said. “We met in high school. He was an athlete. … He brought happiness anywhere he went. He was easy to get along with. It was like positive vibes from him at all times.”

“We all came to have a good time … it was just horrible in there,” she added.

___

Associated Press writers Jamie Stengle and Juan Lozano in Houston contributed to this report. Chase reported from Dover, Delaware, and Catalini reported from Trenton, New Jersey.

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Dallas boy, 9, is youngest of 10 killed at Houston festival