As details continue to emerge about the Travis Scott concert crowd crush disaster, the circumstances that left eight people dead and countless others hurt and traumatized continue to make even the most stoic people queasy. Survivors describe a horrible “whirlpool” of people moving towards the stage, stampeding over each other— and the moment in which the overall mood went from a bit messy to deadly. The horror stories that have emerged from the festival have been supplemented by videos depicting a sea of elbows and bodies, with people screaming for help in the background. Overall, the event seemed like a waking nightmare, and traumatized survivors will be dealing with the aftermath of the event for the rest of their lives.
While the tragedy itself is horrifically sad, arguably the saddest and most frustrating thing about the tragedy is that this wasn’t the first crowd crush disaster— and it is likely that it won’t be the last. Crowd crushes have been traced all the way back to the early 18th century— when too many people would crowd around for executions and to flee fires. But in the modern era, crowd crushes typically occur at sporting and entertainment events or religious festivals.
Arguably one of the most famous and tragic crowd crush disasters that has occured in the modern era took place on December 3rd, 1979— when 11 people were killed after fans rushed towards the stage at a concert by The Who at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati. Ten years later, on April 15th, 1989, ninety-seven people died and hundreds were injured in a crowd crush stampede at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England. This latter disaster also left over 766 people injured, and to this day, remains to be the highest death toll in British sporting history. The last victim of this disaster actually died earlier this year, and the coroner ruled that his death was caused by the severe and irreversible brain damage that he suffered from the tragedy.
Arguably one of the most famous and historic crowd crush disasters of the last 200 years has been dubbed the Khodynka Tragedy, and left over 1,200 people dead and a wide-range estimate of 1,200 to 20,000 people injured. The tragedy took place on the 30th of May, 1896, during the coronation of the last emperor of Russia— Czar Nicholas II. Prior to the coronation there were rumors that gifts of gingerbread and sausage would be given to people who show up. However, on the actual day of the event, there was simply not enough food to go around— resulting in a catastrophic crowd crush as the police force failed to maintain any civil order. This tragedy forever tainted the already disliked Romanov dynasty, and was partially responsible for the fall of the emperor during the Bolshevik Revolution.
So while the Astroworld disaster is nonetheless tragic, it is just the latest in a long history of crowd crush tragedies— all of which, like the Astroworld tragedy, could’ve been prevented. So as details continue to emerge we must look beyond the scope of the disaster, and instead deal with the bigger picture of the event. Case in point, we must ask ourselves how to go about making sure that this never happens again.