BOISE – Idaho residents hoping to enjoy country music and city lights saw their trip to Las Vegas turn into a nightmare when they were caught in the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
At least 59 killed were killed and more than 500 injured, some by gunfire, some during the chaotic escape. Scores remained in critical condition Tuesday.
Here are some of their stories:
SOUNDED LIKE A STRING OF FIREWORKS
Josh Stewart of Meridian, Idaho, was at the concert with his wife, Nicole Smith, who had won tickets to the country music festival from a local radio station.
Stewart told WOW 104.3 FM in a phone interview Monday that the first gunshots sounded like someone had lit a string of firecrackers. He realized it was gunfire when Jason Aldean and his band members were pulled off stage and all the stage lights were flipped on.
“Up until that moment, this was the greatest trip of our lives,” Stewart said. “It just went from the greatest to the worst in a matter of seconds.”
Stewart and Smith ran, first pausing to hide under a semi trailer and then behind a car in a parking lot. That’s when someone brought a woman who had been shot in the arm to the same location, laying her in Stewart’s lap. The group managed to flag down a pickup truck driver, who helped load the wounded woman in the back to take her to the hospital.
Shortly after the pair made it back to the MGM Hotel, where they were staying, they had to flee again – this time because they heard false reports of gunfire inside the hotel. Stewart said that’s when his wife was knocked down and momentarily trampled in the rush.
‘A GUY IN FRONT OF ME WAS BLEEDING ALL OVER’
Meagan Knight, 27, of Pocatello, was running on empty with her two friends after spending the past few days at a music festival. However, all three agreed they couldn’t pass on seeing country star Jason Aldean.
The Idaho State Journal reported the night took a turn when they realized the strange popping sound wasn’t coming from the speakers but instead was gunfire from above.
Knight said her group began to ran, but her emergency combat medical training kicked in when she saw people ducking.
“As we started running, we tried to help a few people who were just ducking for cover by telling them to run, otherwise they were going to get trampled to death,” Knight said. “But we just started booking it. I remember jumping over a body of a girl with blood all over her … our game plan was to just keep running.”
Knight and several others kicked down a security fence while running from the stage, she later gave her flannel shirt to a man bleeding from his arm for a tourniquet and hid in a windowless warehouse before meeting up with her friends at the hotel.
The three women drove back from Las Vegas on Monday, too traumatized to listen to country music on the drive home.
CHAOS AND CONFUSION
Diana Murkle of Meridian told KTVB-TV a last-minute decision to upgrade her ticket may have saved her life.
Murkle says she and a friend decided to pay extra for more room to watch the concert from deck seating, opposite side of the venue from Mandalay Bay.
“I looked at my friend and I just said, ‘Do you want to upgrade and sit up here?’ because we’d just had two nights of guys in cowboy boots stepping on our toes,” she said. “I think somebody was looking out for us for sure.”
Murkle said she thought there were multiple shooters, or a possible terrorist attack. She described the crowd as “panic-stricken.”
Meanwhile, the Boise news station also reports that at least one Idahoan was shot in the chaos.
Jason Hammond of Emmett was shot in the knee and was awaiting surgery, friends confirmed on Monday.
‘WE KNEW IT WAS GUNSHOTS’
Natalie Anderson and her husband also won their tickets to the festival from a Boise radio station.
Anderson told KBOI-TV that she and her husband ducked down immediately when they heard seven or eight pops.
“It didn’t sound like fireworks but it kinda sounded like gunshots. We weren’t sure, there was a slight pause and then we knew it was gunshots,” she said.
However, the two were right near a chain link fence and soon began to be crushed by the wall of people running from the stage.
They then hid under a flatbed truck with several others.
“We had gone behind a cop car, we had gone from the trunk side to the right,” Anderson said. “A girl had gone to the left by the front of the car and she was shot in the head.”