Astroworld Festival Deaths, Lawsuits Increase
Courtesy of Taylor Blount via AP – Ezra Blount Astroworld
This photo provided by Taylor Blount shows Ezra Blount, 9, posing outside the Astroworld music festival in Houston on Nov. 5, 2021. Ezra has become the youngest person to die from injuries sustained during a crowd surge at the Astroworld music festival.
Lawsuits claiming damages approaching $3 billion were filed on behalf of victims just days after 9-year-old Ezra Blount of Dallas became the youngest of 10 reported dead from injuries suffered in a crowd stampede Nov. 5 at Astroworld Fest adjacent to Houston’s NRG Stadium.
As Pollstar went to press, San Antonio, Texas-based attorney Thomas J. Henry announced the filing of a $2 billion suit on behalf of 282 victims of the concert tragedy, naming headliner and festival curator Travis Scott, performer Drake, Live Nation, Apple Music – which streamed the concert – and NRG Stadium.
“The defendants stood to make an exorbitant amount of money off this event, and they still chose to cut corners, cut costs, and put attendees at risk,” Henry said in a Nov. 18 statement.
Another suit was filed Nov. 16 by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee against Scott, Drake, Live Nation, Apple Music and Epic Records, seeking $750 million on behalf of 125 concertgoers, including the family of 21-year-old victim Axel Acosta, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Buzbee’s suit alleges gross negligence and seeks damages for “the loss of mental and physical health, and human life.”
“No amount of money will ever make these plaintiffs whole; no amount of money can restore human life,” Buzbee is quoted from the document.
In a statement shared on Instagram, Buzbee said he plans to file a suit on behalf of another 100 individuals soon.
Live Nation had not responded to a request for comment at press time.
Blount died Nov. 14 at Texas Children’s Hospital after being placed in a medically induced coma with serious injuries from the crowd surge.
“The Blount family tonight is grieving the incomprehensible loss of their precious young son,” family attorney Ben Crump said in a news release Nov. 14. “This should not have been the outcome of taking their son to a concert, what should have been a joyful celebration.”
Treston Blount, Ezra’s father, described what happened Nov. 5 in a post on a GoFundMe page. He said Ezra was sitting on his shoulders when a crowd surge crushed them. The father lost consciousness and when he came to, Ezra was missing, Blount said. A frantic search ensued until Ezra was eventually found at the hospital, severely injured.
The child incurred severe damage to his brain, kidney, and liver after being “kicked, stepped on, and trampled, and nearly crushed to death,” according to a lawsuit his family has filed against Scott and Live Nation. The Blount family is seeking at least $1 million in damages.
Bharti Shahani, a 22-year-old student at Texas A&M University, became Astroworld’s ninth fatality when she died of her injuries Nov. 10, attorney James Lassiter said during a news conference.
The others who died ranged in age from 14 to 27. Some 300 people were treated at the festival site and 13 were hospitalized.
Despite the inevitable spate of lawsuits and attorney statements, it’s important to remember that investigations into the causes of the surge and conditions on the ground at the festival are just beginning and very few hard facts are yet available.
There are conflicting reports about the number of security personnel on site, placement of barricades, and incidents of gatecrashing – some reports claiming in the thousands – that simply can’t yet be verified.
The security and emergency response plan for Astroworld prepared by organizers was some 56 pages and, according to reports, Houston police and fire departments reviewed and approved the safety plans. Additionally, the festival had some 530 Houston police officers working the festival, more than twice as many as 2019’s iteration.
Houston police and fire department investigators have said they are reviewing surveillance video provided by Live Nation, as well as dozens of clips people at the show widely shared on social media.
Investigators also planned to speak with Live Nation representatives, Scott and concertgoers. Scott and the event organizers are now the focus of a criminal investigation.
In the meantime, calls for an independent investigation into what led to the tragedy went unheeded Nov. 15, as Houston-area officials instead chose to direct a county administrator to conduct a review with other governmental entities, some of which were involved in security and crowd control at Astroworld.