By Juan A Lozano, Associated Press
Several families of the 10 people who died from injuries in a massive crowd surge at the Astroworld festival have turned down an offer by headliner Travis Scott to pay for their loved ones’ funeral costs.
Lawyers for the families of four of the victims said that they received a letter from Scott’s lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, in which the offer was made.
In a letter sent on November 24th to the lawyers for the family of nine-year-old Ezra Blount, Mr Petrocelli said Scott extended his “deepest sympathies and condolences” to Ezra’s father, Treston Blount, and Scott had wanted to reach out personally “but does not wish to intrude on Mr Blount’s privacy during his time of grieving”.
Ezra was the youngest person to die from injuries suffered during Scott’s concert at the sold-out festival on November 5th that was attended by 50,000 people. The others who died ranged in age from 14 to 27. Some 300 people were treated at the festival site and 13 were admitted to hospital.
“Travis is devastated by the tragedy that occurred at the Astroworld Festival and grieves for the families whose loved ones died or were injured. Travis is committed to doing his part to help the families who have suffered and begin the long process of healing in the Houston community,” Mr Petrocelli wrote.
In his reply, Robert Hilliard, a lawyer representing Treston Blount in a lawsuit against Scott, the concert promoter and others, declined the offer, saying that while he believes Scott feels remorse, Scott must see “that he bears some of the responsibility for this tragedy”.
“And perhaps one day, once time allows some healing for the victims and acceptance of responsibility by Mr Scott and others, Treston and Mr Scott might meet — as there is also healing in that,” Mr Hilliard said.
“For now, Mr Scott must respect the fact that his pain and his devastation pale to Treston’s, Ezra’s mom, and the other victims.”
Mr Petrocelli did not immediately return a call or email seeking comment on Tuesday.
Michael Lyons, a lawyer for the family of 27-year-old Mirza “Danish” Baig, said he viewed the offer to pay for funeral costs partly as a public relations ploy by Scott to “soften people up” in the court of public opinion. Mr Baig’s family declined the offer, he said.
“Sadly, for my clients, a cheque from Travis Scott … is not going to relieve the pain and suffering that they presently are experiencing,” Mr Lyons said. “I think it will only make it worse.”
Richard Mithoff, a lawyer for the family of 14-year-old John Hilgert, also declined Scott’s offer.
Valerie Cortinas Fisher, a lawyer for the family of 23-year-old Rodolfo “Rudy” Pena, said her clients are grieving and have yet to consider Scott’s offer.
Mr Pena’s family, who is from Laredo, Texas, travelled to Houston on Monday to visit a memorial site near where the concert was held.
Maria de los Angeles Pena, Rodolfo Pena’s mother, remembered her son as a joyful person who loved life and was a good student.
“I want to say to the world, take care of your children, pray for them, watch where they go, and Travis Scott, God bless him. How there is earthly law, there is also divine law,” she said.
Tony Buzbee, who is representing the family of 21-year-old Axel Acosta Avila, said in an email on Tuesday he had received a voicemail from a lawyer who was not Mr Petrocelli making an offer for funeral expenses.
“The offer made didn’t warrant a response,” Mr Buzbee said.
Lawyers for the families of others who died at the festival did not immediately return emails or calls seeking comment.
Scott and the event organisers are the focus of a criminal investigation by Houston police. No timetable has been set for when the investigation would be completed.