Friday, September 29, 2023

Obituary: Brianna Rodriguez, 16; crushed at a festival


Brianna Rodriguez, a junior at Heights High School in Houston, Texas, died Friday, November 5, as a crowd surged toward the stage and crushed her at the Astroworld Festival in Houston, where rapper Travis Scott was performing for an estimated crowd of 50,000 people, CNN reports. She was 16.

(Facebook profile picture)

According to a GoFundMe page established for her family’s funeral expenses, which met and exceeded its goal of $30,000 within a day of being posted, Brianna loved to dance. “Dancing was her passion and now she’s dancing her way to heaven’s pearly gates,” the fundraising post says.

Also killed in the crowd was 14-year-old John Hilgert, a student at Memorial High School in Houston. Memorial High School Principal Lisa Weir sent a letter Saturday to parents at the school, informing them of the death.

“We are deeply saddened to inform you that a male ninth grade student died … in an incident at the Astroworld Festival. Our hearts go out to the student’s family and to his friends and our staff at Memorial. This is a terrible loss, and the entire MHS family is grieving today,” Ms Weir’s letter reads.

The rapper has some Chicago-based history of crowd control issues resulting in injuries during his performances. According to the Washington Post, in August 2015, he was charged with disorderly conduct after police said he urged fans to climb over barricades at Lollapalooza in Chicago and led a chant of “we want rage.”

Security stopped him about five minutes into his performance, and Chicago emergency officials said he fled the scene before being taken into custody. He later pleaded guilty to reckless conduct for the incident.

And in May 2017, a police officer, a security guard, and several other people reported injuries in an incident onstage at a show near Fayetteville, Arkansas, for which he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

Reuters News Service reported that Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said his department had opened a criminal investigation by homicide and narcotics detectives following unconfirmed reports that someone in the audience “was injecting other people with drugs,” including one report from a security officer who said he felt a prick in his neck.

“It happened all at once. It seemed like it just happened … over the course of just a few minutes,” Reuters quoted Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite, who was at the front of the event when the situation began, as saying.

As horrible as the “riot-like” scene at Astroworld may have been, it was not among the worst stampedes ever. Reuters supplemented their coverage of the crowd surge in Houston with a list of more than 15 stampedes around the world over the last three decades.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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