Advertisement
Share

Congress launches probe into Live Nation’s deadly Astroworld festival

A man in a leather jacket sings into a mic with pyro effects in the background
Travis Scott performing at the Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on Nov. 5, 2021, in Houston.
(Erika Goldring / WireImage)

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform has asked Michael Rapino, chief executive of concert promotion giant Live Nation, for information regarding November’s crowd-crush disaster at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival in Houston.

In a letter sent Wednesday, New York Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, along with ranking committee member James Comer and members of Congress Kevin Brady, Al Green and Bill Pascrell Jr., questioned Rapino about the Nov. 5 incident that killed 10 concertgoers, including a 9-year-old boy, and injured hundreds.

“Recent reports raise serious concerns about whether your company took adequate steps to ensure the safety of the 50,000 concertgoers who attended Astroworld Festival,” the letter says. “Reports indicate that security and medical staff were inexperienced or ill-equipped to deal with mass injuries. Some attendees stated that the placement of barricades made it difficult to escape. Experts have stated that Astroworld Festival organizers failed to heed warning signs.”

Advertisement

Rep. Al Green, who represents a southwest Houston district, said that he’s seen the trauma of Astroworld firsthand in his community.

“People are still suffering here in Houston. I went to a home-going ceremony for a high school student who died at Astroworld, and it was very heart-wrenching to be there recounting the life of that young lady,” Green said. “I think this level of suffering is something that has to be addressed, and we can’t do that without getting the facts first. Then we can get a sense of redress but also what policies need to be developed to prevent it from happening in any place.”

The committee asked Rapino to respond to questions regarding timelines for the disaster, security assessments, the on-site response and reports that Live Nation withheld pay from employees until they signed contracts releasing the company from liability, among other issues.

A makeshift memorial of flowers and handwritten signs.
A makeshift memorial outside Houston’s NRG Park on Nov. 7, 2021.
(Alex Bierens de Haan / Getty Images)

In a statement to The Times, a representative for Live Nation wrote, “We are assisting local authorities in their investigation and will of course share information with the Committee as well. Safety is core to live events and Live Nation engages in detailed security planning in coordination with local stakeholders including law enforcement, fire and EMT professionals. We are heartbroken by the events at Astroworld and our deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends of the victims.”

The committee also cited other disasters at Live Nation-produced concerts, including a 2011 incident in Indiana where a stage collapse killed seven and injured 61. The letter asked Rapino to respond to the inquiry by Jan. 7, and sought a briefing with Rapino by Jan. 12. Lawsuits stemming from the disaster now tally hundreds of plaintiffs seeking billions in damages. Criminal charges against Scott, Live Nation and others are still a possibility.

Houston’s long-razed AstroWorld theme park brought joy to people from across the city. Decades later, Astroworld the festival is inextricably linked to heartbreak.

“The tragedy at Astroworld Festival follows a long line of other tragic events and safety violations involving Live Nation,” the committee wrote in its letter. “We are deeply saddened by the deaths that occurred at Astroworld Festival and are committed to investigating what went wrong to inform possible reforms that could prevent future tragedies.”

On Saturday, rapper Drakeo the Ruler was fatally stabbed at the Live Nation-produced Once Upon a Time in L.A. festival, at the Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park. Some eyewitnesses have questioned the effectiveness of event security in the wake of the backstage attack.

Rep. Green said he hopes the inquiry will investigate both Astroworld and, more broadly, other concert tragedies.

“Thoughts and prayers are not enough. Ten people were killed, 300 people were wounded, there are 200 lawsuits,” Green said. “There must be some accountability, and it’s important for Live Nation to give some explanation as to what happened. What were their responsibilities for security, for crowd control, emergency communications and medical care? I don’t know where this investigation will end, but Live Nation is a good place to start.”


Advertisement