The tragic deaths of eight people at a concert in Houston Friday night recalled past tragedies, including a 1979 concert by The Who in Cincinnati that led to reforms on how such events are planned and carried out.
More than 300 people were injured in the mayhem at rapper Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival, held in Houston’s NRG Park.
City officials said they would review the planning documents submitted by the promoter, Live Nation, and the stadium leading up to the event.
Such plans became routine after prior incidents at events drawing large crowds, in particular the 1979 concert by The Who in Cincinnati where 11 people were killed, said Glenn Corbett, a professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former assistant fire chief in Waldwick, NJ.
The Who fans were crushed as the crowd surged toward the stage, similar to what caused at least some of the injuries at Scott’s concert.
Like the Astroworld show, the British rockers were performing to a general admission crowd.
Also known as “festival seating,” that means the crowd was packed together without assigned seats, a scenario that makes it easier for people to surge forward toward the stage, while the people closer to the performers have nowhere to go.
“The concentration of people gets greater until you literally cannot move,” Corbett said. “The crowd moves you.”
A crushing incident also happened at a City College concert in 1991, when nine died and dozens were injured at a charity basketball game and concert featuring rappers Sean “Puffy” Combs and Heavy D.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said the investigation is also looking at the potential that some of the victims were stuck with a needle carrying a mystery drug.
Nevertheless, the probe will look at all aspects of the planning and execution of the festival, County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county’s top elected official, said Saturday.
The documents would outline the plans for emergency and medical response and other elements for controlling the crowd, Corbett said.
The Houston Chronicle reported that the producer, Live Nation, has a history of health and safety violations at venues across the country, and was sued by a concertgoer who broke her leg during a stampede at an outdoor Gwen Stefani concert in North Carolina in 2016.
“This is not an unheard of situation,” Corbett said. “There’s a whole science and industry, if you want to call it that, around crowd safety.”