Lawyer: Tieton man killed at Astroworld concert was suffocated by crowd, trampled ‘like a piece of trash’

Axel Acosta's family, 35 other plaintiffs plan to sue concert promoters

Yakima County resident Axel Acosta was killed Friday during a crowd rush at a Houston music festival — now his family, along with at least 35 other plaintiffs, plan to file a lawsuit together against concert promoters.

“This was needless; it was unnecessary,” said Tony Buzbee, the Houston-based lawyer representing the Acosta family, at a press conference Monday. “It could have easily been prevented.”

Buzbee said the lawsuit will allege that promoters and organizers of the Astroworld music festival failed to set up adequate security measures and restrictions to keep concertgoers safe —  including Axel, who had just celebrated his 21st birthday.

“He was a great kid, an excellent student,” Axel’s father Edgar Acosta said at the press conference. “Today, it’s me. I lost my son — It could have been you.”

RELATED: Yakima Co. man killed in Astroworld concert tragedy

Axel lived in the small town of Tieton, Wash. with his close-knit family and graduated from the nearby Highland High School. Edgar said his son recently transferred to Western Washington University to study computer programming and hoped to help support his family.

Buzbee said Axel loved rap music and loved the lineup scheduled to play at Astroworld — which included Travis Scott, the rapper who was performing onstage during the crowd rush — but that the love was not mutual.

“Certainly neither Travis Scott nor his handlers, entourage, managers and agents, hangers-on, promoters, organizers or sponsors cared enough about Axel to make even a minimal effort to keep him and the others at the concert safe,” Buzbee said.

Buzbee said the lawsuit alleging gross negligence will name multiple defendants, including:

Buzbee said since additional plaintiffs continue to call the Buzbee Law Firm asking to be included in the case against concert promoters, it will be several days before they file the lawsuit in court.

“In this lawsuit, we intend to change the way concerts are put on, organized, promoted and managed in the United States and the world to make sure that this good, decent, solid young man did not die for nothing,” Buzbee said.

A GoFundMe campaign set up by Axel’s aunt, Cynthia Acosta, had raised more than $31,500 as of 8:20 p.m. on Monday. The funds will help the family travel to Texas to see their son and bring him home, as well as other costs associated with Axel’s death.

‘It was just horrific’: Family learned Axel was dead when they saw a picture of him released by the county medical examiner

Axel’s family began to worry about his safety Friday evening after hours of him not responding to calls or text messages. Buzbee said eventually, concert staff discovered Axel’s phone was in the lost and found.

“Axel was not the kind of young man who didn’t answer his phone or did not stay in touch with his brother or his dad,” Buzbee said.

Edgar called the hotel to see if Axel had made it back safe and was told that he had not returned to his hotel room. He called the sheriff’s office, hospitals and the reunification center to see if Axel was on the list of people who had died or were injured at the concert: everyone said no.

The family believed Axel was missing and continued to make phone calls, asking for help to find him. Buzbee said it wasn’t until the family saw a image released by the county medical examiner’s office, showing the face of the unidentified eight victim that they realized Axel was dead.

“It wasn’t just the fact his son died, his brother died; it was the way they found out about it,” Buzbee said. “It was just horrific.”

Lawyer: ‘Axel died on the muddy ground of a concert that he attended for fun’

Authorities have yet to release autopsy results or an official cause of death for Axel. However, Buzbee claims he died as a result of crowd rush, which is a phenomenon that happens when an extremely large and high density crowd moves in one direction in a confined space.

“People that have been involved in crowd rush typically did not die from being trampled,” Buzbee said. “They die from what is known as compressive asphyxiation from the sheer force of all the bodies being stacked on top of them.”

Buzbee said that’s exactly what happened to Axel when he was pushed up against other event attendees so tightly, he was unable to breathe and went into cardiac arrest.

“When he collapsed, concert goers trying to escape their own suffocation caused by the crowd rush trampled over his body like a piece of trash,” Buzbee said. “Axel died on the muddy ground of a concert that he attended for fun.”

Buzbee said emergency responders removed Axel from the concert, placed him on the wet grass “at the edge of the chaos” and attempted to restart his heart, but failed.

“I think it’s self-evident that this concert was planned incredibly poorly, that no regard was given to the safety of these young people at the concert,” Buzbee said.

The Houston Police Department, one of the agencies investigating the fatal incident, reported there were more than 500 police officers and an additional 755 private security guards to cover the approximately 50,000 attendees — which was an increase in security from previous years.

However, public safety officials said they’re looking at the incident from all angles before they come to any conclusions about what happened or who is responsible.

“There were some individuals that were trampled and we want to be respectful of that, but we just ask that y’all give us time to do a proper investigation,” Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said at a press conference over the weekend.

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