Last Friday’s Astroworld tragedy in Houston, Texas has brought to light the concerns regarding public welfare at large events. As of Saturday, eight people were reported dead, all between the ages of 14 to 27-years-old.
The Mayor of Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner, stated in a press conference on Saturday that there were “528 members of the HPD (Houston Police Department) and 755 people from private security firms from Live Nation” stationed at the event.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Mayor Turner said, “and a lot of rumours on social media.”
Police Chief Troy Finner stated later in the conference that it has now turned into a criminal investigation as he reported that 25 arrests had been made. It has also been reported that there were 23 trespassers, one person in possession of cannabis and another person who was publicly intoxicated.
Although there are speculations regarding the exact happenings that led to the deaths and injuries of crowd-goers, the planning of the event, capacity numbers and the response of the staff have all been called into question.
“At 9:30pm that’s when a few people started going down, our people stepped up and immediately went to producers and told them ‘hey people are going down,’ the show ended at 10:10pm,” Chief Finner stated.
Music festivals, especially those with mosh pits, have been known to see crowd surging before. Although these kinds of concerts are known to get unruly and cause mayhem within crowded areas, they are not the only examples of loss of life due to crowd charging.
In the past, crowd surging has seen a loss of life at events such as the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, international football games such as at the Heysel Stadium in Belgium and even at a Black Friday shopping sale.
The cause of deaths in crowd surges is often thought to have been caused due to trampling however, lack of oxygen is also to blame. The force of pressure exerted by both the front and rear of the crowds in their efforts to move in or away from the momentum can cause those in the middle to be squeezed so tightly it limits their ability to inhale oxygen.
The venues that host these large-crowd events are supposed to plan accordingly so that the crowd can be dispersed in a large area. Due to Astroworld being an outdoor festival, it lacked the seating areas that concert-goers can normally be separated into as seen in arenas and stadiums.
Now that large-scale events are returning due to the easing of lockdown restrictions all over the world, many are sure to return to these kinds of populated spaces. However, as we’ve seen in the recent tragedy at Astroworld, having plans and structures in place are only efficient if they are properly adhered to.
If you find yourself in a crowd surge, try to look for an escape away from the epicentre, stay upright and save your breath by not screaming or yelling, move away from barriers and try to keep your arms at chest level to protect your rib cage.
Image by Colin Lloyd via Unsplash