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Naperville high school grads among 8 killed in Astroworld crowd surge

Franco Patino and Jacob Jurinek played football together at Neuqua Valley High School. They were celebrating Jurinek’s birthday when they were killed in a crowd surge at the festival in Houston this weekend.

Jacob Jurinek (left) and Franco Patino were among the eight people killed in a crowd surge Friday night at the Astroworld festival in Houston, Texas.
Provided

For the past year, Franco Patino and Jacob Jurinek had been looking forward to this weekend’s Astroworld festival in Houston.

Fellow graduates of Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Patino and Jurinek had moved onto separate colleges and planned to celebrate Jurinek’s upcoming 21st birthday there.

But the occasion quickly turned tragic Friday night, when the two promising students and six others were killed as the festival’s organizer Travis Scott performed. Hundreds more were hurt.

In an interview Sunday, Patino’s father, Julio, said his son’s enthusiasm was palpable when he spoke to him for the last time earlier in the day.

“He answered the phone right away, and he was happy,” said Julio Patino. “[He said,] ‘I’m having so much fun with my friend.’”

“I said, ‘Franco I love you. … Have fun, but be safe,” his father recalled. “He said, ‘No problem, Dad. I am fine. Everything’s gonna be OK.’”

Julio Patino declined to comment on the circumstances of his son’s death or speculate on who may be to blame, but he said one thing is clear: “Something went wrong.”

Patino was a 21-year-old senior at the University of Dayton in Ohio, where he was majoring in mechanical engineering technology with a minor in human movement biomechanics, according to his father and the school.

He was the treasurer of Alpha Psi Lambda, which is a Hispanic-oriented fraternity, and he was also a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. He had been working in an engineering co-op program in Mason, Ohio.

Patino graduated in 2018 from Neuqua Valley, where he was a three-sport athlete. His father noted that he was a student mentor on the football team and helped coach Jurinek, who was a year younger.

In a statement, Patino’s family said he “was loved by so many because of the loyal, loving, selfless, protective, funny, and caring person he was.”

“We will miss the big heart Franco had and his passion for helping others,” his family wrote. “We’re glad Franco always tried to live life to the fullest and are glad to know he was the type of person that would put himself before others until the very end.”

Jurinek was studying art and media at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and worked as a graphic arts and media intern for the athletic department. He was affectionately known as “Big Jake” by his younger cousins — a nickname his father, Ron Jurinek, said fit his “larger-than-life personality.”

“Jake 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,” the family said in a written statement.

An avid music fan and artist, Jurinek was especially close with his dad. The two became “inseparable” after Jurinek’s mother died in 2011 and often attended Blackhawks and White Sox games together. They also shared a love for professional wrestling.

“We are all devastated and are left with a huge hole in our lives,” Ron Jurinek said. “Right now, we ask for the time and space for our family to process this tragic news and begin to heal. We’re comforted by the fact that the hundreds of people Jake touched over the years will carry a piece [of] his spirit with them.”

Kim Rendfeld, an SIU spokeswoman, said the school community was “brokenhearted to lose a member of the Saluki family” in a statement offering condolences to Jurinek’s family and friends.

Investigators on Sunday were working to determine what went wrong during Scott’s performance. Preliminary reports indicate the tragedy happened when the crowd of thousands rushed to the stage, squeezing people so tightly they couldn’t breathe nor move their arms.

The youngest fatality was a 14-year-old high school student and the oldest was 27. Thirteen people remained hospitalized Sunday.

Some of Patino’s friends took to social media to specifically call out Scott, who previously held the annual festival in his native Houston two other years. The superstar rapper-producer’s shows are known for being chaotic, and he even pleaded guilty to reckless conduct charges tied to a 2015 incident at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago.

“My friend is gone FOREVER because of Astroworld,” one friend wrote. “The anger I have over this is insane. Travis Scott is going to have to do a hell of a lot more than post a notes-app apology.”

In a series of videos posted on Scott’s Instagram, he offered condolences and said he was working to connect with the victims’ families. “I’m honestly just devastated. I could never imagine anything like this just happening,” he said.

Rapper Roddy Ricch, who also performed Friday, has said he’s going to donate his earnings from Astroworld to the victims’ families.

Contributing: Associated Press