At Astroworld concert, private medics risked lives to save lives


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Medic Alex Pollak didn’t see anything amiss as he stood in the “pit” — a sealed-off section between the stage and the crowd — and rapper Travis Scott hit the stage the night of the fatal Astroworld Festival in Houston. Then his handheld radio came alive: the medical tent was starting to fill with cardiac arrest patients pulled from the crowd.

Pollak rushed over to see the first two patients being worked on, including nine-year-old Ezra Blount. He was relieved when medics were able to regain a pulse and heartbeat in the small, unconscious boy, he said. 

Then his radio burst with anxious medics reporting more cardiac arrest patients in the crowd. 

Patients soon filled nearly all 30 cots in the medical tent or were splayed on the ground, as teams of medics intubated patients and inserted IVs to drip drugs into their bloodstreams, said Pollak, founder of ParaDocs Worldwide, the New York-based company providing medical services at the Astroworld Festival.

Besides cardiac arrest patients, medics worked on overdoses or injuries from being crushed in the crowd. Several patients were in their teens or early 20s. At one point, medics conducted CPR on 11 cardiac arrest patients at once, including Ezra, Pollak said.

All but one of them would die.

Pollak was a paramedic on scene in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City and responded to the 2009 US Airways emergency landing in the Hudson River. But the scene unfolding in the medical tent rattled him, he said. 

“No one could be prepared for seeing so many young people receiving CPR,” Pollak said in an interview with USA TODAY. “I don’t know of anyone who has seen that.” 

The Astroworld Festival is now one of the deadliest concerts in U.S. history.

Houston Police launched a criminal investigation into the event, and multiple lawsuits have been filed against Scott and Live Nation Entertainment, the event’s promoters. Part of the investigation will focus on how medical teams responded to the emergency. At the center of the life-saving efforts was ParaDocs, which was contracted by Live Nation to provide medical response at the concert.

Pollak described a chaotic scene where ParaDocs medics repeatedly ran into the crushing crowds to retrieve unconscious concertgoers, battled their own personal feelings and worked alongside Houston Fire medics to save lives. 

“It was a great team effort,” he said. 

Houston fire officials paint a slightly different picture of ParaDocs, whom they said worked hard to treat patients but were overwhelmed and underprepared for the deluge of crushed and dying patients. 

Fire officials called in reinforcements after struggling to communicate with ParaDocs during the crisis and assumed they were overrun by the unfolding catastrophe, said Houston Fire Deputy…

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