Expert explains psychology behind crowd surge

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As families prepare to bury the dead following the Astroworld Festival aftermath, there are still so many unanswered questions about the crowd surge.

The volatile scene killed nine people and injured more. Many attendees told ABC13 they waited months, if not years, for the event. The COVID pandemic canceled last year's concert. There was pent-up demand for the experience.

Micki Grimland is a licensed clinical social worker with Southwest Psychotherapy and Associates. Grimland said the so-called "COVID factor" might explain why people seemed more hyped than in previous years.

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"I think that definitely played a part in this," Grimland said. "People finally got out and there's so much energy and excitement about it. That's not why it happened, but it certainly contributed to what some people did or did not do during that space. People aren't thinking as clearly as they normally think when they're out and about, because they're so glad that they're out and about. It was just an egregious, horrific thing that happened."

Grimland said the pandemic isn't responsible for the horrific deaths. She said psychology can help explain how the crowded space quickly turned deadly. She said when people get trapped in a crowd surge, squeezed so tightly that they can't breathe, their body reacts.

"What's going to happen is the amygdala, which the lower part of your brain, is going to get reactive. You're going to get into a very reptilian state of being. Fight, flight or freeze," said Grimland. "Your anxiety starts building. You start getting really frightened. Then you start, basically, internally feeling like you're going to die."

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Civil and criminal investigations are underway looking into what happened at Astroworld Festival. Grimland said this tragedy reminds us all we're our first line of defense at all times.

"This is so painful for so many people who were there and terrifying," said Grimland. "Remember, this is an out of the ordinary situation. This is not something that happens on a regular basis. We want to learn from this. We want to grow from this. We want to pay attention."

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SEE ALSO: Astroworld Festival survivors demand accountability in ABC13 town hall

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