Astroworld Festival: Stampede evokes 1974 death of 14-year-old David Cassidy fan
Travis Scott’s much-awaited Astroworld Festival began on November 5 at NRG Park in Houston, Texas, amid much excitement and fan frenzy. But the electrifying energy soon turned into tragedy as the crowd went berserk right at the entry gates.
The tragedy reminded many of the 1974 death of a 14-year-old fan that haunted singer and actor David Cassidy for the rest of his life. Bernadette Whelan was crushed to death at one of Cassidy's London concerts after a stampede in the crowd, which also led to hundreds of fans being hospitalized. The demise of Whelan led Cassidy to give up his career as a pop superstar and marked a turning point in his life.
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Cassidy had already attained global stardom by his early 20s. He seemed to have it all, right from his acclaimed role in the wildly popular TV show The Partridge Family to his newfound credentials as a teenage heartthrob. This was after his brand of easy-listening pop sold millions of records and drew swathes of young female fans to his concerts.
Prior to arriving in the UK in 1974, Cassidy had been touring sold-out shows in Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, with paparazzi following him wherever he went. However, there were already calls for him to be deported from Australia after 300 young women had to seek medical attention after attending his sold-out show at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
But one incident profoundly affected Cassidy and changed his life forever. On May 29, 1974, he appeared in front of 35,000 fans at the White City Stadium in West London. A surge in the center of the crowd caused injury to 800 people as they made a dash to the front. Injured girls were seen in photos being hauled over the front of the stage, with an ambulance worker noting he had never seen injuries on such a scale before.
At least thirty-one attendees were rushed to Hammersmith Hospital for immediate medical attention -- one of them being Whelan, who succumbed to her injuries two days later. Responding to the girl's death, Cassidy said he was "shocked deeply." While he couldn't attend Whelan's funeral due to fears of a media frenzy, he sent flowers and messages of condolences to her grieving family. "We don't blame David," the 14-year-old's parents said at the time. "Bernadette would not have liked us to blame him," her father noted.
Whelan died of brain damage brought on by asphyxiation and was described as a "victim of contrived hysteria" by a coroner who examined the circumstances of her death. The tragedy marked the end of Cassidy's sold-out touring as well as his career as a teen pop idol. He subsequently exited the cast of The Partridge Family and focused on creating more serious music. His talents granted him several hit records in the US and the UK, but he never reached the heights of success as he had previously. This was followed by a slew of legal troubles and battles with addiction.
"I'm as famous as I want to be," Cassidy told People at the time. "Touring has retarded my growth as a human being. There's a lot more to me than the public has seen. Now I'm free. It's as if a tremendous weight has been lifted off my shoulders," he added. The pop legend died in November 2017 following a series of health struggles.