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The latest on Houston's Astroworld Festival after stampede kills 8


We're going to Houston now, where eight people were killed last night and at least two dozen injured at the Astroworld Music Festival, apparently crushed by members of the some 50,000 strong crowd surging toward performers. Authorities say it's still too early to say exactly how it all happened. Houston Public Media's Sara Ernst was at a press conference that just wrapped up and is with us now from Houston. Sara, thanks so much for joining us.

SARA WILLA ERNST, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So the news broke late last night about people apparently being crushed by the crowd. What new information did authorities give us today?

ERNST: So they say it's still very early into the investigation. You know, there are a lot of unanswered questions at this point. And they're coming out and asking for the public's help to, you know, find some information about what really happened last night. There's a lot of videos that they're going to review today. And they're looking at the festival, how it was planned and whether those plans were really followed through with.

MARTIN: I wanted to ask you about something that the Houston police chief, Troy Finner, said. Let's listen and then I'll ask you about it.



TROY FINNER: This is now a criminal investigation that's going to involve our homicide division as well as narcotics. And we're going to get down to the bottom of it.

MARTIN: Do we know what's behind that? Why is he saying that?

ERNST: So at first, the police chief and other officials, they really cautioned against rumors, including one that someone at the event was injecting people. And they did report that one of the security officers, while helping, someone reported feeling a prick in his neck and then went unconscious. And, you know, later, medical professionals, they end up giving him Narcan. It's a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. But again, there are still really not that many details right now, and the authorities have emphasized that there are a lot of unknowns.

MARTIN: So what can you tell us about the people who were killed and injured at the concert?

ERNST: They really all were young people. Of the eight people who died, one was 14, another was 16. And five other of the victims were in their 20s. There was another one, and the age of that victim is not known yet. And the family members of the majority of the victims have been contacted. Around two dozen were hospitalized. Some were in cardiac arrest. But only four of those so far have been discharged, according to local officials.

MARTIN: And what about the people who were at the show when this was all happening? What are they saying?

ERNST: Yeah, so a colleague of mine spoke with Sophia Gonzalez (ph). She was at the show last night. And she said even before events really escalated, she saw some people pushing each other, people calling each other out and some fights almost breaking out.

SOPHIA GONZALEZ: And then when Travis went on stage, it was overwhelming. It was insane. Like, the first songs, I felt like I was, like, not even on the ground. Like, my feet weren't even on the ground. I was being pushed everywhere. I was having to hold on to my friends for dear life, literally. We are so lucky to be alive right now.

MARTIN: And what about the headliner, Travis Scott? Like, what is he saying about this?

ERNST: Yeah, so he tweeted today, just saying that he's devastated over last night's events and that he's sending his prayers to the victims' families. He's in support of the Houston Police Department and their efforts to investigate and find out what really happened. And he said he's committed to working with the community to help with the healing process, especially for those families that are experiencing loss.

MARTIN: And before we let you go, how is this news hitting Houston?

ERNST: I think a lot of people feel shaken by this. And I think a lot of people - I mean, an event like this where there were these types of deaths haven't happened in decades, at least according to some of the top officials. And so I think people are really trying to heal right now.

MARTIN: That is Sara Ernst. She's a reporter at Houston Public Media. Sara, thank you so much.

ERNST: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sara Ernst