Investigators probe Houston concert where 8 fans died, hundreds injured

By Nathan Frandino and Joseph Ax

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Authorities on Monday were investigating the events leading to the deaths of eight people, including two teens, when the audience at rap star Travis Scott’s performance at a Houston-area music festival last week surged toward the stage, crushing or trampling the victims.

Scott, a hometown star who was the headline act at the Astroworld festival, will offer refunds to all attendees, according to a source familiar with his plans. He has canceled a scheduled performance this weekend at Day N Vegas in Las Vegas, a similar outdoor festival, the source said.

The victims were crushed in a chaotic surge of concertgoers near the stage, with some unable to breathe and others trampled underfoot. Hundreds of others were injured during Friday’s performance.

Though he paused the music multiple times after spotting fans who needed medical attention, Scott completed his set. He later released a statement saying he did not realize how out of control events had become in the crowd and was “devastated” by the tragedy.

More than a half dozen lawsuits from victims and their families have already been filed against several defendants, including Scott and concert promoters Live Nation and ScoreMore. Houston-based Buzbee Law Firm scheduled a news conference on Monday to announce a lawsuit on behalf of Axel Acosta, 21, who died at the festival, as well as other victims.

Police have opened a criminal investigation, in part based on reports that someone in the audience may have injected a security guard with drugs.

Officials have also said they intend to examine whether security plans were flawed or followed improperly.

Details about the victims, who ranged in age from 14 to 27, have begun to emerge, as friends and family shared remembrances.

HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMAN

The youngest, John Hilgert, was a freshman at the Houston-area Memorial High School. Over the weekend, members of the community put up green ribbons around campus in honor of Hilgert, whose favorite color was green, according to local television station KHOU.

Hilgert was an avid baseball player, according to posts on social media from those who knew him.

“He wanted to be the best he could be every day, every game, every pitch,” Jordan Venable, the director of a travel baseball club that Hilgert had played for since he was 12, wrote on Facebook, adding that Hilgert had an “unforgettable smile.”

Brianna Rodriguez, 16, was a member of the band at Heights High School in Houston who loved to dance.

“Brianna was someone who performed with the band and was someone who could always make anyone smile,” the band’s Twitter account wrote.

Her family set up an online fundraiser to help pay for funeral expenses.

Two college students originally from Naperville, Illinois – Franco Patino, 21, who attended the University of Dayton, and Jacob Jurinek, 20, who attended Southern Illinois University – also died at the concert, according to their schools.

Patino, a mechanical engineering technology major, was a member of several campus organizations, including Alpha Psi Lambda, a Hispanic interest fraternity and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

“Jacob was a creative, intelligent young man, with a promising career in journalism and advertising,” Austin Lane, the chancellor at Southern Illinois, said in a statement confirming Jurinek’s death.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba and Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg, Nathan Frandino, Brendan O’Brien, Daniel Trotta, Shivam Patel and Tim Reid; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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