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What Is a Crowd Surge and What Are the Dangers?

crowd surge

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The force of a crowd is a powerful one. Without proper features in place, a crowd can quickly turn deadly. The tragedy at the Astroworld festival in Houston is a very fresh memory for many of us, but countless deadly crowd surges exist in our history. Crowd safety should be the most important aspect in mind when planning a large event, but many people overlook this until it’s too late. At Reich & Binstock, our personal injury attorneys are prepared to fight aggressively for you. If you or a loved one was injured in a crowd surge, call the experienced injury attorneys at Reich & Binstock today to schedule a free case evaluation at 713-622-7271.

Crown Surge Meaning

crowd surge

A crowd surge is a surge of energy caused by sudden movement through a dense crowd of people. Too many people together in close proximity can result in a dangerous surge of energy that results in injury and even death. Large events with a high crowd density can cause a crowd surge. Concerts, festivals, and sporting events all have a historic record of deadly crowd surges.

Crowd Surge Examples

The most recent example of a deadly surge is the event that killed ten people at Astroworld. At Houston’s very own NRG Park, Astroworld 2021 sent shock waves through the community and the entire United States after the avoidable tragedy killed ten people and sent 25 to the hospital. The first reports of the event only had eight people listed as the casualties, but the number grew to ten as more people succumbed to their injuries–including a 9-year-old boy. The crowd began pushing toward the stage, but concrete barriers prevented many from moving out of harm’s way.

In 1943, nearly 200 people suffocated in a London air raid shelter. Someone fell on the stairs during entry, and people continued to press into the shelter as bombs dropped overhead–or so everyone thought. It wasn’t until the 1970s that authorities released the true reason for the crowd surge. The air raid sirens may have been activated, but it was not because of bombs. Authorities were testing new, secret weapons in a nearby park. Londoners may have been accustomed to the sound of bombs, but the rapid gunfire was new. This caused additional panic and resulted in the largest civilian casualty in the UK during World War II.

How Do Crowd Surges Happen?

A crowd surge can be difficult to explain to someone who has never been in this terrifying situation. Once a crowd becomes dense enough, energy passes through bodies as it would pass through a liquid. Imagine a wave–you can stand on a beach and feel the energy of the water. In most cases, you can stand your ground and the wave parts around you. When the water is deep enough, the energy can push you in any direction. In a large group of people, movement can gain momentum quickly. Videos of crowd surges look eerily similar to a wave breaking on a beach. And once someone succumbs to the surge, injuries and fatalities can occur.

What Kind of Injuries Can Crowd Surges Cause?

crowd surge meaning

One may think that the majority of death from crowd surges is from trampling and crush injuries, but the most common cause of death is compression asphyxiation or suffocation. Crowd surges can also result in broken bones, bruises, lasting trauma, and even catastrophic injuries.

Crowd Crush Injuries

When people fall to the ground during a crowded event, it can be difficult to get back on their feet. If a crowd surge caused someone to fall, it can be nearly impossible to stand back up. Just like a liquid fills the volume of its container, the energy from a crowd surge will force people into any free space–including the new room from someone who has fallen. The fallen person will often have broken bones, bruises, and other blunt trauma from people stepping on them.

A crowd collapse involves several people falling, which in turn causes more people to fall as they trip over the original fallen people.

Suffocation Injuries

When opposing forces meet, it usually involves crushing whatever is between them. In the case of a crowd surge, the opposing forces are people pushing forward from the back of the crowd and people at the front standing their ground or pushing back. The thing crushed between them can be you–or more specifically, your lungs.

Unconsciousness can occur after only 30 seconds without oxygen. Death can occur just minutes later, long before help can arrive in the middle of a large crowd. This form of drowning can occur on land with no liquid in sight. As the opposing forces act on your body and force the air out of your lungs, the constant pressure remains and prevents you from taking a breath. This results in a tragic and completely preventable death.

Who Is Responsible for Crowd Surges?

crowd surge definition

As with all crowd surges, what happened at Astroworld was an avoidable tragedy. Venues, event organizers, security teams, and performers have a duty to provide the resources necessary for a safe event. Without policies in place, these deadly surges will continue to happen at major gatherings. If you or a loved one has been injured in a crowd surge, the class-action attorneys at Reich & Binstock can fight aggressively for you. Our experienced legal team can hold the negligent parties responsible for their actions.

Event Organizers

Event organizers have plenty of resources available to help with crowd management, but safety doesn’t make money. Standing room-only events with no sectioning (as is the norm with most festivals) can result in people rushing the stage to fight for better sightlines. Negligent security or poor training can result in medical staff being unable to get to injured people in the crowd.

Live Nation, the organizer producer of Astroworld 2021, has already come under fire for other safety violations.


Performers can have a significant impact on the energy of a crowd. It’s not uncommon for performers to pause a performance when a crowd becomes too aggressive or high-energy. The performer can use their influence and vantage point from the stage to make sure there’s no extreme behavior. At Astroworld, rapper Travis Scott’s performance could have halted and let the energy of the crown disperse before picking up again. Instead, Travis Scott continued to perform and build up the energy of the crowd.

Large Crowds

One thing that cannot be blamed for the injuries and deaths is the crowd itself. In very few cases is a crowd surge the fault of attendees. The nature of a crowd surge is a force greater than any individual. Even though people are the acting force behind a crowd surge, they are not the ones who made the situation possible.

Can Crowd Surges Be Prevented?

can crowd surges be prevented

Crowd surges can be prevented in a number of ways. Large gatherings can be separated into smaller groups so that minor movements don’t gain exponential speed and force. Crowd spotters can be used to communicate danger zones to both the performer and any security officers. The venue and event organizers can use barriers or fences to separate sections of the crowd and prevent one area from becoming overcrowded. Timed ticket entry can prevent overcrowding at the entrance to an event, and multiple exits can help disperse a crowd after an event is over.

Injuries and deaths from crowd surges can be prevented when event organizers and venues instill regulations and policies. Unfortunately, many of these policies are only put in place after multiple lawsuits and deaths.

Talk to Crowd Surge Attorneys at Reich & Binstock Today

Improper crowd control and safety precautions ignored by the venue and the performers can result in emotional distress, injuries, and even death. A large concert or music festival doesn’t have to end in injury or death.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a large crowd, the crowd surge attorneys at Reich & Binstock are ready to help you. Our Houston personal injury lawyers have never met a case too big to handle–we provide representation for class action lawsuits all over the country. For a free case evaluation, contact us today by calling 713-622-7271.

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