Julio Patino spoke to his son, Franco, by phone on Friday afternoon as Franco was celebrating a 21st birthday at the Astroworld Festival in Houston with his high school buddy Jake Jurinek.
“He was happy and eating with his friend. He was having fun,” Patino told The Daily Beast by phone on Sunday.
But by the end of the night, Franco and Jake were both dead, among the eight victims crushed and trampled by a surging crowd at a festival that several attendees have since said was poorly organized, chaotic, and understaffed.
Red flags had already emerged earlier in the afternoon, when eager fans stormed an entrance to the festival, knocking over metal detectors and fences, and outnumbering security guards. Things only got worse. As soon as Travis Scott’s performance began at 9 p.m., people were jammed in so tightly they couldn’t breathe. Bodies were trampled upon or pulled from the crowd by medics who didn’t know how to administer CPR or take pulses, Madeline Eskins, an ICU nurse, said. Fans begged workers to stop the show but it fell on deaf ears. Scott performed for another 40 minutes after police declared it a mass casualty event.
“I’m in shock, I’m angry, I’m all of the above right now,” Patino said. “I’ve seen the images when people started coming in [to the event]. It was already overcrowded. When they could not control the crowd, when they knew the crowd would become so rowdy, the owner should have stopped it right then. They could have done something before it got to the point of no return.”
Franco and Jake had remained friends after graduating from Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois. Franco went off to the University of Dayton to study mechanical engineering; Jake to Southern Illinois University where he was pursuing his passion for art and media.
They had a mutual interest in hip-hop music and traveled together from Illinois to the Houston festival to celebrate Patino’s birthday.
Jurinek was “beloved by his family and by his seemingly countless number of friends for his contagious enthusiasm, his boundless energy, and his unwavering positive attitude,” his family said in a statement to The Daily Beast on Sunday. He was known as “Big Jake” to his cousins, “a name befitting of his larger-than-life personality.”
Jake’s mom, Alison, died in 2011 but the loss only brought him closer to his father, Ron, who called Jake his best friend.
“In the decade since, Jake and Ron were inseparable—attending White Sox and Blackhawks games, sharing their love of professional wrestling, and spending weekends with extended family and friends at Jake’s favorite place, the family cottage in Southwestern Michigan,” the family said.
Reached by phone on Sunday, Ron said he was too grief-stricken to talk. “It’s a terrible loss, he was great kid,” he said.
Patino has been left trying to figure out how the pair’s night turned so drastically wrong.
Franco regularly lifted weights at the gym and was in good shape, his father said. Jake was 6 feet tall and built, too. Patino said authorities in Houston told him that both passed away of cardiac arrest, most likely from pushing.
“I can’t imagine dying that way,” he said through tears.
When the family couldn’t get in touch with Franco at the end of the event on Friday, they started desperately calling police. A hospital employee eventually used Franco’s phone to call his mother and confirm their worst fear. Jake was still missing though, so the Patinos went around to the home of Ron Jurinek, who at that point had no idea what had happened. “He was in shock,” Patino recalled. A couple of hours later, Jake had been located.
Eskins, the ICU nurse who was pulled out of the crowd but regained consciousness, believes she then performed CPR on Jurinek after overwhelmed medics begged her for help. “[I]’m so sorry we couldn’t save you. i’m so sorry you went to a concert to have fun and this is what happened to you. i’m so sorry,” she wrote on Instagram Sunday.
One of Patino’s sons put a call out on social media on Saturday to find the person seen in a grainy video trying to save Franco’s life. “I want to see who spent my brother final moments with [sic],” he wrote. He managed to get in touch with the person and thank him for giving Franco CPR.
Franco’s father said the family has not yet heard from Scott, his team, or the festival’s organizers.
“I’m a project manager,” he said. “I know how to organize big projects and I believe they didn’t have all the contingencies in place. Something went very wrong. Who’s gonna pay the price for the life of these people?”
He remembered his son as an accomplished leader who volunteered to teach disabled kids about engineering in his spare time. He was a member of Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the fraternity Alpha Psi Lambda.
“He had so many friends, so many people, everywhere he goes he was shining,” he said.