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Gov. Abbott’s concert safety task force finds 5 key factors led to Astroworld incident

Festival goers are seen exiting NRG Park on day one of the Astroworld Music Festival on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in Houston.
Amy Harris
Festival goers are seen exiting NRG Park on day one of the Astroworld Music Festival on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in Houston.

Abbott’s Task Force on Concert Safety found permitting and lack of risk assessment, among other themes, contributed to the loss of 10 lives in November.

Gov. Greg Abbott's Texas Task Force on Concert Safety found five recurring themes that led to last year's deadly Astroworld incident — most notably permitting and risk assessment.

Tuesday's reportcomes a little more than five months after the festival, in which 10 people were killed and hundreds more injured when the crowd surged toward the stage during Travis Scott's set. The youngest of those killed was Ezra Blount, 9, who attended the concert with his father.

The governor's task force found a lack of uniformity in the state's permitting process for concerts. It found that Astroworld was operating over its occupancy load issued in the concert permit, which the task force said could have been prevented if a consistent permitting process was in place.

Task force members recommended "a universal permitting template" in lieu of that discovery. It also recommended a standardized checklist for county judges issuing these permits.

"This template would be informed by those counties that have historically hosted successful events and could provide guidance on what is statutorily required in permit applications," the report read. "The template would serve as a ‘floor not a ceiling,' allowing for local issuers to add relevant information according to the area and type of event."

The report recommended a central organized command center — "Unified On-Site Command and Control" — tasked with identifying and preventing similar tragedies at future events, and additional training for security and event staff.

On risk assessment, the report criticized the team behind Astroworld, specifically Scoremore Productions, a subsidiary of Live Nation Concerts, for lack of preparedness around large crowds.

"Compared to shows in established venue structures, such as the ATT Center or Globe Life, manufactured events like the Astroworld show, which occurred in a parking lot, require unique contingency plans," the report said. "For these manufactured events, there is a serious safety risk if venue borders are susceptible to a breach that results in unauthorized entrance to the grounds, and especially into sections reserved for first responders. This influx of people can overwhelm even a well-planned event's security and staff and may result in the introduction of contraband not screened at designated entry points."

The concert's safety plan has been criticized by public safety experts who say it failed to adequately prepare for such a crowd.

Scores of lawsuits were filed in response to the incident, many of which were combined into one suit currently in front of a Harris County judge. Local law enforcement have been actively investigating the event, and the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee launched its own probe.

For future concerts, the group suggested barricades and adequate communication. It also recommended a scan of social media hashtags and artist accounts for the general "mood of the crowd in real time."

The Texas Music Office also created an Event Production Guide that further details the recommendations provided in the report for future events.

One of the people who served on the task force, Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President Marty Lancton, praised the plan in a statement Tuesday night.

"There would have been no lives lost if the policies contained in this report had been in place last fall, especially the requirement of a unified command and control for all first responders working the event," Lancton said. "In the future, the Houston Fire Department must be the entity designated to fulfill that responsibility."

Haya Panjwani is a general assignment reporter for KUT. She also served as a legislative fellow for The Texas Newsroom during the 2021 legislative session.