Astroworld tragedy evokes memories of The Who Concert tragedy

FILE - A security guard and an unidentified man look at an area with shows and clothes strewn around where several people were killed and others injured, as they were caught in a surging crowd entering Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum for a Who concert on Dec. 3, 1979. The crowd deaths at a Houston music festival on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, have added to the long list of people who have been crushed at a major event. Such tragedies have been occurring around the world for a long time at concerts, sports events and religious gatherings. (AP Photo/Brian Horton, File)
Caption
FILE - A security guard and an unidentified man look at an area with shows and clothes strewn around where several people were killed and others injured, as they were caught in a surging crowd entering Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum for a Who concert on Dec. 3, 1979. The crowd deaths at a Houston music festival on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, have added to the long list of people who have been crushed at a major event. Such tragedies have been occurring around the world for a long time at concerts, sports events and religious gatherings. (AP Photo/Brian Horton, File)

Credit: Brian Horton

Credit: Brian Horton

11 died in Cincinnati in similar crowd rush in 1979

Eight people are dead and more are injured after fans at a Travis Scott concert suddenly surged toward the front of the stage, creating panic and confusion.

Officials haven’t yet identified what went wrong and causes of death have not been released, but the incident echoes closely what happened in 1979 when fans in Cincinnati rushed the doors of the Riverfront Coliseum.

The Houston fire chief said that the crowd began to compress toward the front of the stage, which caused some people to panic. In the end, 17 people were taken to hospitals, including 11 people who were in cardiac arrest. The victims’ ages ranged from 14 years old to 27 years old.

In Cincinnati, the incident at Riverfront Coliseum left 11 people dead and changed the landscape of concerts. After the tragedy, festival-style seating was banned, but the practice has since made a comeback in venues nationwide — including at the Astroworld music festival Friday night.

“You always hope that things like this never reoccur, but history has an unfortunate habit of reoccurring,” said Fred Wittenbaum, who helped found the P.E.M. Memorial Scholarship for Finneytown seniors in the name of three students from there who lost their lives at Riverfront Coliseum in 1979.

Wittenbaum said he worries that after being banned for 25 years following the deadly concert in Cincinnati, festival seating remains unsafe.

“When you allow people to be in mass, to be in a place, it’s an unstoppable force when they start moving,” he said. “And it doesn’t matter how they start moving. It only matters that the movement occurs. And it becomes like a tidal wave and people start to go down.”

He’s inviting anyone from the Houston region affected by Friday’s tragedy to visit Cincinnati on Dec. 4 to heal with a community who knows their pain all too well. On that day, Wittenbaum and others will hold a ceremony on the anniversary of the Riverfront Coliseum deaths at Finneytown High School. The event will also be streaming, he said, so anyone who can’t attend physically can still participate.

“Our community has been through it, the Finneytown community, the Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky community,” said Wittenbaum. “We’d like to have this event as a way for people to come and heal, and anyone from the greater Houston area that would have the interest to come to Cincinnati, Ohio, on December the fourth would be welcomed with open arms.”

The incident in Houston is still under investigation and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities are working with Scott’s people to determine what went wrong.

Turner said Saturday that 13 people are still hospitalized, including five under the age of 18.

In a statement, Scott said that he was “absolutely devastated” by what happened and that the Houston Police Department had his “total support.”

About the Author