HOUSTON — A group of eight friends went to Astroworld Festival together, but only seven of them left the show alive.
Ayden Cruz is 18. He's a varsity basketball player at Heights High School. Cruz, his girlfriend and a group of friends which included 16-year-old Brianna Rodriguez were at the Travis Scott show on Friday. Rodriguez was one of the eight people who died at NRG Park that night.
"Everything feels like it’s not real," Cruz said.
Cruz is the young man seen in a viral video climbing on a ladder to a camera platform pleading for the show to stop. It was his fifth time seeing Scott and he had been to the two previous Astroworld Festivals in Houston. He said he thought he had a good safety plan in place for the festival.
"I love music. I love going to concerts. I know the energy. I know the vibes and this shouldn’t have happened," Cruz said. "I tried my best to avoid all danger zones. I thought I had it all down."
He said that no matter how he's viewed after all is said and done, he'll never forget what could have been.
Here's Cruz's full interview:
"I’m getting comments saying I’m a hero," Cruz said. "I lost my friend. Like, she’s not here with us right now."
Swept away in the crowd
He said his group of friends was toward the back of the crowd when Scott took the stage, and all of a sudden, Cruz said the force of the crowd of people behind him pushed him and some of his friends to the ground.
"It really wasn’t a mosh pit where we were. We were actually towards the back," he said. "And all of a sudden, people start pushing us from the back and we’re not actually able to open up anything. There was no space. People were actually freaking out. There was a girl behind us who was frantically screaming."
He said that's when he got scared.
"At that point, fear has hit already my heart," he said.
No one could move. Shoulders were pressed into his face. Hands were above him.
"It took me a long time to get out before I could even get to the cameraman," he said.
People start falling down
Within minutes of Scott taking the stage, he said people were already falling down to the ground.
"And as the people, the first layer of people, fell down ... we ended up falling down on our backs and people ended up falling on top of us," he said. "I couldn’t get up for the longest. No one really could get up. There was no one moving. The music was going and people were jumping and dancing."
That's when he said his girlfriend hit the ground.
"She was enjoying herself the entire festival up until that moment. She talked about how excited she was to see Drake," he said. "I heard her. I heard her asking for help and saying that she can’t breathe."
But he wasn't able to help.
Cruz said it felt as if he was suffocating. He said he had already accepted his fate ... that he was going to die in the sea of people.
"You’re, like, counting your last breaths. I went to a state where I accepted that I was going to die," Cruz said. "I didn’t really see a way out. I didn’t see a way out for me. Only God could help me in that scenario. And that’s exactly what happened."
'Not enough time'
Cruz said there was a stop in the music and he was able to see some people he knew, but his instinct was to find his girlfriend. Cruz said some unidentified men picked his girlfriend up off the ground and carried her to a less populated area of NRG Park. She asked Cruz if he had seen any of their other friends, including Rodriguez. Cruz said he wanted to go back to where they fell to start searching.
"There’s not enough time. There’s, like, time is ticking. Any decision I make is very critical. And so, I think the best way that we can save them is by making the show, like, come to an end, or stopping it," he said.
Trying to stop the show
Cruz said he spotted the cameraman and made a decision. He got up on the platform and started pleading for him to stop the show.
He said he doesn't blame the cameraman for ignoring him because he knows he was just doing his job. He said other fans were actually yelling at him to get down.
"I just felt like no one else was going to do it, and it would save Bri and it would save those people that were beneath my feet," Cruz said.
He said being ignored wasn't an unfamiliar feeling.
"It felt sad, but, like, a majority of my life ... how I’ve felt, like, I’ve never been listened to," he said. "I mean, I forgive them. I forgive them because not everyone was in there to understand what I went through."
Cruz wasn't alone in his pleas to stop the show. Another young woman was seen begging the cameraman to put an end to the mayhem.
"Man, to have someone by your side, that’s exactly what we need. We need people to help each other," he said.
Cruz said he has battled depression in the past. He said he talked to a therapist on Tuesday for the first time in a long time. He said he's had trouble sleeping and is also dealing with headaches.
"For a long time in my life I didn’t feel like I was ever winning," Cruz said. "I pray through the day and my mind clears up."