the History of Crowd Disasters and Deaths
- A crowd crush disaster at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival left eight dead.
- It’s preceded by other crowd disasters at sporting games, concerts, and religious events.
- While some disasters have led to reform, experts still say that many are preventable.
9 people died and at least 300 were injured in a crowd crush incident at rapper Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival performance in Houston last Friday.
The crowd at the event was close to 50,000 people and compressed towards the stage around 9:30 pm on Friday.
The incident was far from the first crowd disaster that has led to tragedy. They’ve previously occurred at religious events and festivals, sporting events, and concerts. According to the Guardian, there were 44 crowd-related disasters that killed at least 10 people between the years of 1999 and 2015.
These are several crowd crush incidences over the past half-century that preceded the Astroworld tragedy.
In December 1979, 11 were killed during a crowd disaster at The Who concert in Cincinnati
Outside Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum, a crowd waiting in line to see The Who perform surged during a soundcheck, with some thinking that the concert had started, The Washington Post reported. Most of the tickets for the show were “festival seating,” or first-come-first-serve general admission. The incident left 11 dead.
The incident led to the city of Cincinnati banning unassigned, first-come-first-serve festival seating for 25 years, WCPO Cincinnati reported. The ban, however, was lifted in 2004.
A crowd disaster at a football game in Hillsborough, England in 1989 led to reforms across the sport
During the Football Association Challenge Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in April 1989, a crowd crush incident led to the deaths of 97 people, some of whom died years after the fact as a result of the injuries they sustained, the BBC reported.
At the time, the spectator grounds were organized into pens, rather than areas with assigned seats; an influx of Liverpool fans into two of the pens led to a deadly crush, according to the BBC. In the wake of the disaster, South Yorkshire police placed blame on “drunken, ticketless Liverpool fans,” The Guardian reported in 2015.
The jury of an inquest into the incident ruled in 2016 that the then-96 victims of the incident had been unlawfully killed and that fans were not responsible for the incident, according to The Guardian.
The disaster eventually led to a number of reforms in English football, most notably conversion to all-seater stadiums among teams in the top two divisions of the sport, The Guardian reported in 2009.
A stadium disaster in Accra, Ghana in 2001 killed 126 people
Vice reported in 2016 that a 2001 match between Ghanaian soccer teams Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club and Asante Kotoko in Accra, the nation’s capital, led to some fans of Asante Kotoko throwing bottles and plastic chair bits onto the pitch when their team fell behind. Police armed with crowd control equipment including rubber bullets and tear gas fired on Asante fans, causing them to flee.
The stadium’s construction, however, led to a bottleneck that trapped fans, leading to 116 dying of traumatic asphyxia and 10 dying from trauma, Vice reported. An official inquiry into the incident blamed police for the incident and recommended changes to improve stadium safety, the BBC reported in 2001.
A crowd disaster outside a variety show recording in Manila in 2006 killed 73
Outside the taping for the first anniversary of the variety show “Wowowee,” which awarded cash prizes, the BBC reported that approximately 30,000 were waiting outside the Ultra Stadium (also referred to as the PhilSports stadium). Per the BBC, when people outside started pushing forward, security guards closed the entrance gate, culminating in a crush that killed 73 and injured hundreds.
A 2008 Black Friday death led to Walmart receiving an OSHA citation
The New Yorker reported in 2011 that during
(the day after Thanksgiving) in 2008, a crowd crush at a Long Island Walmart resulted in the death of 34-year-old employee Jdimytai Damour. When the doors to the store opened, the crowd that had been pushing against the door at the front of the store crushed into a vestibule at the front, according to The New Yorker.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) faulted Walmart for Damour’s death, fining the company $7,000 that it contested for years after the accident, according to HuffPost. OSHA confirmed to HuffPost in 2015 that Walmart had removed its appeal and planned to pay the fine.
Following Damour’s death, HuffPost reported, OSHA started issuing guidance to retailers on how to manage the crowds that came with Black Friday.
In 2015, the most deadly crowd disaster during the hajj resulted in approximately 2,400 deaths
There have been numerous crowd crush incidents during the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims must make at least once during their lifetime if they are physically or financially able, according to the Associated Press. Per the AP, six such incidents have occurred since 990.
The most deadly incident to date occurred in September 2015 and left, by “reasonable estimate,” more than 2,400 dead after human traffic jammed on a street while the crowd behind continued to push forward, Vanity Fair reported. Also referred to colloquially as the Mina stampede, the primary cause of death was compression asphyxia, according to Vanity Fair.
Experts say these incidents are often preventable
Keith Still, a professor of crowd science at Manchester Metropolitan University, told The Guardian in 2015 that crowd crushes are “preventable, predictable and avoidable.”
Paul Wertheimer, the founder of Crowd Management Strategies, a crowd management consulting firm, previously told Insider that Astroworld Festival attendees were “victims” who were “put in a situation beyond their control” by event organizers.
“One of the reasons these disasters continue to occur is because nobody’s held criminally responsible for this gross negligence,” Wertheimer told Insider.