ASU student at deadly Houston music festival says people were in ‘survival mode’

Nov 9, 2021, 4:35 AM
The crowd watches as Travis Scott performs at Astroworld Festival at NRG park on Friday, Nov.  5, 2...

The crowd watches as Travis Scott performs at Astroworld Festival at NRG park on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 in Houston. Several people died and numerous others were injured in what officials described as a surge of the crowd at the music festival while Scott was performing. Officials declared a “mass casualty incident” just after 9 p.m. Friday during the festival where an estimated 50,000 people were in attendance, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña told reporters at a news conference. (Jamaal Ellis/Houston Chronicle via AP)

(Jamaal Ellis/Houston Chronicle via AP)

PHOENIX — A 19-year-old Arizona State University student who attended a music festival in Houston on Friday where eight people died and hundreds more were injured said people were in survival mode to avoid getting trampled in a crowd surge.

Bianca Strauss has been to many music festivals and said Astroworld, a sold-out, two-day event in NRG Park, started out a similar way.

She told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad on Monday that prior to Travis Scott stepping on stage, she was having the time of her life along with others who were waiting for the rapper to come out.

That all changed when a countdown clock appeared.

Strauss, who was in the middle of an estimated crowd size of 50,000 people, said she felt the first push at the 10-minute mark.

“I just felt this surge of push just behind me of thousands of people just pushing,” she said. “It was the point of if you had your hands down you couldn’t pick them back up.”

At the 1-minute mark on the countdown clock, the concert turned into what she called “a living hell.”

“Once that timer was stopped, that was when I was fearful for my life,” she said. “That’s when everything changed.”

As the crowd rushed toward the stage, Strauss said that people were jumping on top of people and she was getting suffocated.

“It was a surreal moment where I was feeling like I was going to die,” she said. “Everyone was in that state. When he came out, it was survival mode.

“Everyone was trying to hold on for themselves, I guess gripping on to whatever they could to not fall down amid the crowds of people.”

Strauss said at one point in the commotion she was halfway under the stampede.

“At that moment I had a very major panic attack, hyperventilating just because I couldn’t get my oxygen flowing out,” she said.

“I was gasping for every breath that I could bring in and passing in and out of consciousness.”

Somebody was able to pick up Strauss and put her back on her feet.

The ages of those who died ranged from 14 to 27, according to Harris County authorities, and included high schoolers, an aspiring Border Patrol agent and a computer science student.

Over 300 people were also treated at a field hospital on site and at least 13 people remained hospitalized on Sunday.

Strauss said she didn’t see any medical or security personnel in the general area.

“No medical, no security could be found whatsoever and I’m assuming they were probably more closer up towards those railing areas,” she said.

The Houston Police Department has launched a criminal investigation into the incident.

Investigators with the Houston police and fire departments said they would review video taken by concert promoter Live Nation, along with dozens of other clips from people attending the show.

They were also interviewing witnesses and planned to examine the design of safety barriers and the use of crowd control at the event.

The causes of death for the eight people who died could take several weeks, said Michele Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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ASU student at deadly Houston music festival says people were in ‘survival mode’