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Video forensics could be key to understanding 'mass casualty event' at Houston concert

A team of journalists is among those combing through social media posts that provide insight into the Astroworld tragedy that left eight dead.

MINNEAPOLIS — Even before the first news reports of people dying at Travis Scott's Astroworld Festival in Houston on Friday night, there were signs of trouble on social media.

"We started finding videos throughout the night and synchronized it with the Apple Music Live Feed that started when Travis Scott first came out around 9 p.m.," said Elyse Samuels, a video reporter for The Washington Post's Visual Forensics

Kent Erdahl: "Is there anything that surprised you as you started to get further into the weekend and going through this video?"

Elyse Samuels: "In the crowd we see groups calling out as soon as 9:12 p.m., yet the concert didn't end until after 10 p.m., and so, seeing those moments throughout and then knowing that the concert went on as long as it did, was a finding for us — and also raises more questions in terms of the security response."

As criminal investigators now try to answer those questions, several lawsuits have already been filed against the concert promoter, Live Nation, and Travis Scott himself. On Monday, the Houston police chief acknowledged meeting with the rapper and his head of security on Friday prior to the event to raise concerns about public safety.

Samuels: "Travis Scott, at least twice throughout (the concert), at 9:30 and 9:42 pm, sees what's going on and does acknowledge it. He stops and says something to it, but as to the severity of it or what people knew, and when, I think is still yet to be determined."

Erdahl: "What other questions are you still trying to answer?"

Samuels: "A big question we still have is the layout of the stage and where certain barricades may have been, or where some of the incidents were happening. For instance, was there a crush all in one area or was it throughout parts of the venue?"

Erdahl: "We still don't know, this many days later, if it was one, concentrated event or several smaller ones?"

Samuels: "I think investigators are looking into it, but at this point, we don't know where and when each one of the deaths happened, like where all the victims were placed."

She's confident those answers will come, and hopeful change will too, thanks to so many eyewitnesses sharing what they saw in real time.

"I think there will be calls for change, or better protocols, in order to prevent this in the future," Samuels said.

In a video posted to Instagram during the weekend, Travis Scott said he didn't realize how severe things got during his set, adding that he's devastated and would be assisting the victims' families. 

The rapper's words have done little to slow criticism of his behavior during shows. Scott has a history telling crowds to bypass security and rush the stage. In 2017, he was arrested after encouraging a crowd in Oklahoma to rush the stage, resulting in injuries to security staff.