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'I never felt unsafe ... in danger': Austinites share experience from Astroworld Festival

Natalia E. Contreras
Austin American-Statesman

Some Austin residents who attended Astroworld Festival in Houston on Friday night said they never felt unsafe or at risk during Travis Scott's concert where officials said a "crowd surge" left at least eight people dead and dozens injured.

Houston officials declared a "mass casualty incident" at 9:38 p.m. Friday during the festival at NRG Park, where an estimated 50,000 people were in attendance, according to reports by USA Today. The remainder of the event was canceled.

The two-day music festival is run and headlined by Scott, a Houston native and rapper. Officials said the crowd surge Friday began after Scott took the stage. 

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Emergency personnel respond to the Astroworld music festival in Houston on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021.

Ryan Patton, 43, of Austin, who attended the music festival with his 13-year-old son, said he was shocked when he heard people had died at the event. Patton said he didn't make it all the way to the front of the stage but his son did. 

"With the number of people that were there and that amount of excitement, the mosh pits, I could see how if you fell, you'd be in trouble," Patton said. "But I never felt unsafe or like I was in danger. We had a great time."

Scott tweeted Saturday that he is "absolutely devastated" after learning of the deaths and injuries. 

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The victims who died ranged in age from 14 to 27, USA Today reported

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a Saturday news conference there were 25 people transported to the hospital, and 13 are still hospitalized. A 10-year-old is in critical condition, officials said. There were scores of other injuries. At least 11 suffered cardiac arrest. 

Faraz Vohra, who owns Shawarma Point, an Austin food truck featuring Mediterranean fare, and his team were food vendors during the music festival Friday. 

He was still in Houston on Saturday waiting for investigators and law enforcement officials to give vendors access back to the venue. 

"We're trying to figure out what to do with the thousands of dollars we just lost," he said. "But obviously that really doesn't matter. There were lives that were lost and it's just sad."

On Friday night, when Scott took the stage, business was slow so Vohra and his brother decided to check out the show. 

"But we stayed back where we had some room. We could see people struggling to get out of the crowd and sweating," he said.

To beat the crowd, Vohra and his brother left the concert area before the show ended. 

"Then we saw the cops and the ambulances, we didn't know what happened," he said. "We didn't realize the extent of what had happened at that time. We just thought people were dehydrated, passing out, and that happens with a crowd like this."

Shahram Ghassemi, 29, of Austin, attended the event Friday and said this was not his first time at Astroworld Festival. Ghassemi was also there in 2018 and 2019, he said. 

"So I was already expecting it to get crazy when Travis came out. That's how it always goes," he said. "But I never felt unsafe or claustrophobic. I was near the middle of the crowd."