Criminal probe into deadly crowd surge at Astroworld Festival could take weeks. Here’s what it could involve

Criminal probe into deadly crowd surge at Astroworld Festival could take weeks. Here’s what it could involve

Concert attendees Isaac Hernandez and Matthias Coronel watch Jesus Martinez sign a remembrance board at a makeshift memorial on November 7

By Travis Caldwell, Rosa Flores, Holly Yan and Joe Sutton, CNN

New details have emerged about the pandemonium that left eight people dead Friday night at a Houston concert and renewed safety concerns about densely packed events.

A civil lawsuit already has been filed against organizer and rapper Travis Scott, along with promoter Scoremore and entertainment company Live Nation.

Authorities on Monday are still trying to determine who — if anyone — might face criminal charges after a deadly crowd surge at the Astroworld Festival, where about 50,000 fans had gathered.

The investigation was “in its early stages” on Sunday, the Houston Police Department said. And “it will take probably weeks, if not longer, and … will be looked at from many different angles,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

What the criminal investigation could include

The standard for criminal liability will likely be higher than the standard for civil liability, CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers said.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner visited Scott before his set to express “concerns about the energy in the crowd,” according to reporting from The New York Times, citing a source familiar with the chief’s account. CNN has reached out to Houston police and representatives for Travis Scott for comment on The New York Times report.

It’s not clear how much that kind of notice about the crowd might play into the criminal investigation, Rodgers said.

“One of the keys is whether what happened is reasonably foreseeable,” she said. “If you’re told about a risk in advance, that makes it much more foreseeable.”

However, “it’s likely not (Scott’s) job to keep an eye on those sorts of things,” Rodgers said. “If he saw something that was happening, he had a duty to stop the show.”

Scott stopped the show at least three times to ask for help for stricken concertgoers, audience members Nick Johnson and Angel Rodriguez told CNN.

Determining what Scott knew about the situation in the crowd — and whether he acted appropriately — will be important parts of the investigation, Rodgers said.

5 people are still in intensive care

Witnesses described harrowing scenes of people crushed or trampled as the music drowned out calls for help.

As of Monday morning, six people remained hospitalized, including five in intensive care, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña told CNN.

“The crowd, for whatever reason, began to push and surge towards the front of the stage, which caused the people in the front to be compressed,” the fire chief said. “They were unable to escape that situation.”

This isn’t the first instance of a dangerous crowd surge at the Astroworld Festival. At the 2019 event, three people were trampled and injured.

This year’s festival had a substantial increase in security, the mayor said, including more than 500 Houston police officers and more than 700 private security personnel.

Victims continue to be identified

The eight people who died ranged from 14 to 27 years old.

They include John Hilgert, 14; Brianna Rodriguez, 16; Jacob Jurinek, 20; Franco Patino, 21; Rodolfo Peña, 23; and Danish Baig, 27.

The identity of another victim was determined Sunday, Turner said.

Rapper Roddy Ricch, one of the festival’s performers, announced he will donate his share of concert proceeds to families of the victims.

“Please have the families of those we lost yesterday reach out to @shawnholiday. I’ll be donating my net compensation to the families of this incident,” Ricch posted on Instagram, sharing the hashtag “Pray4Houston.”

Astroworld Festival organizers canceled Saturday’s show after the surge and said in a statement, “Our hearts are with the Astroworld Festival family tonight — especially those we lost and their loved ones. We are focused on supporting local officials however we can.”

Lawsuit filed against organizers and promoters

A concertgoer has filed suit against Scott, entertainment company Live Nation and concert promoter Scoremore, seeking monetary damages of more than $1 million for injuries sustained at the show.

Manuel Souza “suffered serious bodily injuries when the uncontrolled crowd at the concert knocked him to the ground and trampled him,” the lawsuit said, which CNN obtained from the law firm Kherkher Garcia representing Souza.

“Defendants failed to properly plan and conduct the concert in a safe manner. Instead, they consciously ignored the extreme risks of harm to concertgoers, and, in some cases actively encouraged and fomented dangerous behaviors,” the lawsuit said.

“We will be investigating this tragedy over the next few days and hope to shed light on what happened and provide answers to victims and the families of those victims. No one should ever attend a concert in fear. This must stop,” according to a statement from Kherkher Garcia.

In a video posted on Instagram Saturday night, Scott said, “I’m honestly just devastated,” and added “we’re actually working right now to identify the families so we can help assist them through this tough time.”

CNN has reached out to Scott, Live Nation and Scoremore for comment on the lawsuit.

Kylie Jenner, who shares a 3-year-old daughter with Scott, said neither she nor Scott were aware of the Astroworld fatalities during Friday’s concert.

“I want to make it clear we weren’t aware of any fatalities until the news came out after the show and in no world would have continued filming or performing,” Jenner said in an Instagram post. “I am sending my deepest condolences to all the families during this difficult time and will be praying for the healing of everyone who has been impacted.”

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CNN’s Keith Allen, Melissa Alonso, Gregory Lemos, Amanda Jackson, Claudia Dominguez and Vanessa Price contributed to this report.

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