Astroworld: What is crowd surge? How Travis Scott's concert led to stampede, deaths

Crowd surges are not uncommon occurrences in events like concerts or festivals, which are popular among the masses

                            Astroworld: What is crowd surge? How Travis Scott's concert led to stampede, deaths
Crowd surge at Astroworld Fest 2021 left 8 dead and several others injured (Twitter)

Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival led to utter chaos that ended up killing eight people and injuring several others on Friday, November 5, as the rapper was performing on his Utopia Mountain stage on the opening night of the festival which is annually held at Houston’s NRG Park.

With about 50,000 people attending the sold-out event, Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena during a news conference on Saturday morning, described it as a "mass casualty" incident which was largely triggered when the crowd began "to compress toward the front of the stage" just after 9 pm. This sparked panic and started causing some injuries. "We had scores of individuals that were injured," Pena said. "People began to fall out, become unconscious and it created additional panic."


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He added that 17 people were transported to local hospitals, 11 of whom suffered cardiac arrest. He confirmed that one patient was only 10 years old. Over 300 people had to be treated at the field hospital set up near the festival. All of this happened due to a crowd surge


What is a crowd surge?

When a large number of people move too quickly or suddenly toward the same direction, it is called a crowd surge. When groups of people start pushing forward in a crowd, it often becomes next to impossible to escape from the formation, especially when one is part of a large gathering.

Unfortunately, however, crowd surges are not uncommon occurrences in events like concerts or festivals, which are open to the public at large and are popular among the masses. It is not unusual for people to fly into a panic when one is involved in a crowd surge. This happens when there is a lack of oxygen and space to move. People find it difficult to breathe which potentially could lead to injuries or even death.

How do people die in a crowd surge?


Crowd surges can result in people being trampled by others, caused by sudden movement in a massive group of people who are confined to a certain space. The primary reason for death or injury in a crowd surge is actually the lack of oxygen. People can get suffocated as they end up being squeezed too tight in the crowd. 

During a crowd surge, the people at the back of the crowd push forward while those in the front push back due to a lack of space. As a result of the back and forth pushback, many get caught in the middle and a pileup occurs due to opposing forces. Those caught in between, with no room to escape, end up finding themselves in unstable breathing conditions. The situation also results in stampedes, which often lead to injury or death.


There have been a number of examples in the past when crowd surges have turned catastrophic. For instance, a crowd surge at The Who concert left 11 dead and many others injured on December 3, 1979. At the concert which was held in Cincinnati, people gathered at the entrance waiting to be let in when The Who reportedly started their soundcheck inside. Under the wrong impression that the concert had started without them, the crowd began surging with many being trampled and others dying of asphyxiation.

Another example is that of April 1989, when a similar event occurred at the Hillsborough Stadium in England. Huge groups of people began to enter the stadium and crowd control wasn't taken seriously. A surge resulted in the deaths of nearly 100 people, injuring over 700.