Many Canadian tourists are recounting the terrifying experience of being in the crowd as a gunman opened fire on a concert from a hotel room above the strip in Las Vegas Sunday night.
Saskatoon’s Janelle Balaski said she and her group were among 22,000 people attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival when gunfire broke out late Sunday night during a performance by Jason Aldean.
At first, she said she thought the rapid popping of shots might have been fireworks. It quickly became clear that the festival-goers were being attacked, as shots started hitting close to her seat in the 10th row.
“The first shots were probably like two feet away from us,” she said.
Balaski said she went to the ground as bullets continued to rain down.
“So everybody jumps down and Jason Aldean is still playing at this point. And then, all of a sudden they just run off the stage. Everybody who’s on the stage just runs off,” she said.
Balaski said the scene turned to chaos as she and her friends huddled together on the ground amid shots.
“There was bodies everywhere and shoes and articles of clothing. There was just, like, people everyhwere. I just wanted to keep everybody down because if we started running, we would be the target.”
Balaski said she and her group eventually got up when the shooting stopped. She said they hid behind a beer truck, where they came upon people trying to help someone who had been wounded.
“There was a girl there that was shot, and people were trying to help with like their shirts or their clothes and trying to tie up her wounds and help her,” she said.
Balaski said she and her group made their way from the beer truck to some bushes, before making their way to safety at the MGM Grand hotel.
With the shock still fresh, Balaski said she still finds it hard to believe what she witnessed.
“Yeah. It feels like that didn’t happen,” she said.
Two women from Manitoba are thankful to be alive after being shot.
Jody Ansell and Jan Lambourne were taking in the outdoor concert when gunfire rained down on them.
Ansell spoke to News Talk CJOB Radio in Winnipeg by phone from her hospital bed in Las Vegas.
“My friend, I (saw) her go down and I went to look at her and then all of a sudden I was shot in the arm bleeding a whole lot,” she described, her voice shaking with emotion. “So I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t want to just take cover like everybody else so I decided to just run.”
Lambourne was hit in the stomach but they are both recovering in hospital after the terrifying ordeal. Ansell said she got off lucky.
“I’ve got road rash all over my body from running, falling, climbing fences – it was just whatever you’ve got to do to get out,” she said.
Ansell says all she could think about was her family and getting out alive.
Todd Lawrence from Weyburn was also at the concert with his wife and several of their friends. He said they are all OK, just shaken up by what they saw.
“There was no doubt I saw several people that didn’t make it and several others that were wounded and it was very close,” he told Discover Weyburn in a phone interview early Monday morning.
The scariest part for Lawrence was being separated from his friends when the attack began.
“It was terrorizing and luckily we all had our phones on and we were able to make contact with each other in a pretty reasonable amount of time,” Lawrence said, noting the sense of relief. “Once we all knew that we were all OK we were able to sort of cope.”
Saskatoon’s Chris Greyeyes told 650 CKOM he was attending a show at the New York-New York casino, across the street from the Route 91 festival.
He said he was just coming out the hotel doors when the shooting started.
“When we were leaving, the crowd just turned and rushed back towards us. Someone was yelling ‘Shooter! Shooter!’ and they were stampeding us, we went running back,” he said.
Greyeyes said he could hear the rapid popping sound of automatic gunfire.
“I didn’t know who was shooting or nothing, there was so many people running.”
Greyeyes said he and others retreated back into the hotel kitchen and took cover.
Once it was safe, Greyeyes said he made his way back to his room, and saw the heart of the city’s famous entertainment district under heavy security.
“The whole strip was locked down. No doors. There was security at every door. Police every 20 yards with assault rifles,” he said.
The shooter, identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, died in a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino overlooking festival. Authorities said he was found surrounded by a cache of weapons and it’s believed he took his own life.