Astroworld staff told to refer to possible dead fans as ‘smurfs’



Astroworld staffers were instructed to refer to potential dead concertgoers as “smurfs,” according to a security and emergency medical response plan — as witnesses described victims as turning “black and blue.”

The 56-page Event Operations Plan, which was obtained by CNN, instructs the personnel at NRG Park in Houston to never use the terms “dead” or “deceased” on the radio.

Scoremore, the Austin-based promoter, instead instructed workers to use the code word borrowed from the blue animated children’s characters, the document shows.

It is unclear why the term “smurf” was chosen or whether staff actually used the code on the radio when referring to Astroworld victims — some of whom were described by eyewitnesses as turning blue as they suffocated, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Instagram user @diabloxantiago said in a video that he watched people turn “black and blue” while receiving CPR, the paper said.

Houston Mayor’s office spokesman Brent Taylor said he believed the use of the code word in the plan, which was prepared before Friday’s deadly event, was “operational,” according to Yahoo News.

smurfs astroworld
It is unclear why the term “smurf” was chosen or whether staff actually used the code word.

He said he has heard the term “smurf” used “secondhand” before, but referred questions to the promoter.

Eight people between the ages of 14 and 27 were killed and about 300 were injured — including a 9-year-old boy who is in a coma — when a mass of fans among the 50,000 concertgoers rushed the stage during rapper Travis Scott’s performance.

The detailed plan published by CNN also includes protocols for a variety of dangerous situations — including an active shooter, terrorist threat, possible riot and severe weather.

However, it does not address crowd surges despite an incident from the same festival in November 2019, when three people were hospitalized after being trampled.

Travis Scott
Travis Scott performs on stage during the deadly Astroworld event.
Amy Harris/Invision/AP
A limp man being pulled out of the crowd and carried beyond a barrier by security personnel during Travis Scott's performance at Astroworld.
A limp man being pulled out of the crowd and carried beyond a barrier by security personnel during Travis Scott’s performance at Astroworld.
Brennon Moore via Storyful

“Based on the site’s layout and numerous past experiences, a Security Plan has been established to help mitigate potential negative issues within the scope of the festival,” the document states, CNN reported.

“The potential for multiple alcohol/drug related incidents, possible evacuation needs, and the ever-present threat of a mass casualty situation are identified as key concerns,” it says.

Regarding a large crowd, the plan says that “the key in properly dealing with this type of scenario is proper management of the crowd from the minute the doors open.”

It adds, “Crowd management techniques will be employed to identify potentially dangerous crowd behavior in its early stages in an effort to prevent a civil disturbance/riot,” but those techniques are not further explained, according to the network.

An ambulance is seen in the crowd during the Astroworld music festival
Those affected by the crowd surge include a 9-year-old boy who is in a coma.

The document also describes a clear chain of command in case of an incident, identifying the role of the executive producer and festival director as the only people with the authority to stop the event.

Scoremore and national promoter Live Nation said in a statement shared on Instagram on Monday that they have provided police with footage from event cameras, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“We wanted to provide an update on the steps that Scoremore, Live Nation and the Astroworld Fest team have been taking,” they wrote. “Throughout the weekend, we have been working to provide local authorities with everything they need from us in order to complete their investigation and get everyone the answers they are looking for.”

Paul Wertheimer, founder and president of Crowd Management Strategies, said the industry knows the dangers of crowd surge and that you need a specific plan to deal with the possibility.

“It doesn’t even really appear in what is the equivalent of the Astroworld’s crowd management plan,” he told CNN.

“There’s no reference to crowd surge, crowd crush, crowd panic. There’s no reference to the front of the stage and festival seating crowd. And therefore, there’s no specific emergency planning for a mass casualty crowd crush event.”

Wertheimer said the mostly boilerplate document does reference a risk assessment plan.

“We need to see that risk assessment plan,” he told the network, adding it should address how organizers planned to deal with the kinds of events that had occurred at previous Scott shows.


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