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At Houston's Astroworld Festival, 8 people are killed after crowd rushes the stage

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

How did a music festival in Houston end with eight people dead? Rapper Travis Scott began his Astroworld Festival on Friday night, and it attracted 50,000 people. Despite an effort to address widespread concerns about security, a rush to the stage turned deadly. Houston Public Media's Paul DeBenedetto has been covering this story. Paul, good morning.

PAUL DEBENEDETTO, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What was this festival, for those who aren't familiar with it, and how did it go wrong?

DEBENEDETTO: So this is a festival that's thrown pretty regularly - semiannually - by Houston rapper Travis Scott. He's a sort of major pop star, and he's from the city. It's a usually huge event.

Police say they started seeing people collapsing during Scott's set around 9:30 that night and reached out to organizers, but the concert didn't stop for about another 40 minutes. There's video of concertgoers who were scrambling to get the attention of a cameraman who was filming the event, and there has been one video on social media where Scott himself appears to notice somebody in the crowd is in trouble and calls for security.

You know, Houston police have defended that response. They've argued that abruptly stopping the show could have caused a riot. But overall, eight people died. More than a dozen others were hospitalized in the aftermath. The youngest of those who was injured is just 10 years old.

INSKEEP: Let's talk through that timeline a little bit more. Police said that stopping the show sooner might have caused fatalities of a different sort - people being angry they'd lost the show. But what, in fact, did happen?

DEBENEDETTO: So within that 40-minute lag between when police contact the promoter and the end of the concert, we don't yet know everything that kind of occurred during that time. Travis Scott recorded a statement on Instagram.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRAVIS SCOTT: I could just never imagine the severity of the situation. We've been working closely with everyone to just try to get to the bottom of this.

INSKEEP: So he's saying he's not quite sure why it took him so long to stop the show, even though he himself, from what you said, seemed to be concerned about things happening in the crowd. How were police handling this, leading up to it?

DEBENEDETTO: So crowd control has been an issue in the past for this event. But this year, the number of police increased. HPD said there were hundreds more officers - 500 throughout the day, about 300 active during the incident. So police bulked up their presence from previous concert. There was a medic tent on site, and also there were more private security on the ground. So clearly, police felt prepared. But the bottom line is that a few minutes into the set, problems really did quickly emerge. And shortly after that, police and private security were overwhelmed.

INSKEEP: So what happens now?

DEBENEDETTO: Well, the investigation is going to continue, though police will probably review footage to look at the actions of individual fans. So far, what we know as of this morning is that at least two attendees have sued the festival organizers, including Travis Scott and including promoter Live Nation. One suit's being filed on behalf of Alex Costa (ph), who's one of the concertgoers who died. Another is from someone who was injured, who accuses the organizers of negligence.

Now, Travis Scott is known throughout his performances to kind of encourage fans to dance and mosh. But obviously what happened on Friday is a completely different thing. So we expect to see more lawsuits filed in the coming days.

INSKEEP: Houston Public Media's Paul DeBenedetto, thanks so much.

DEBENEDETTO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.