LAS VEGAS (AP) — It was a night of music that turned to chaos and horror. There were 22,000 country music fans at the outdoor Las Vegas concert when the shooting started. Police said 59 people died and 527 were injured when a shooter rained gunfire down on them from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino hotel. Here are the accounts of survivors and their loved ones, interviewed by The Associated Press.
`THEY’RE SHOOTING AT US’
Jessica Cabrera called her father from Las Vegas and screamed into the phone: “They’re shooting at us. People are falling. I love you!”
It was shortly after 10 p.m. The horror his 21-year-old daughter recounted was every parents’ worst nightmare.
James Cabrera and his wife, Sonia Pena, jumped in their car and drove to Las Vegas as fast they could from their home in La Habra, California.
“That was the fastest drive in history from California to Vegas,” he said, seated Monday morning at a slot machine in the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
The parents learned their daughter and the friend she went to the festival with had escaped the shooting and hid inside a bathroom at the MGM Hotel until morning. Cabrera’s daughter said people they had befriended at the concert were shot, he said.
College student Brandon Clack and his girlfriend were up near the stage when they heard a cracking noise.
“We thought it was some kind of fireworks. But then we could tell it was multiple, multiple rounds,” said Clack, 21, from La Palma, California. “It went on for a long time. Like 10 minutes.”
The cracking sound stopped. Then it restarted. Chaos swept the crowd as people started running, trying to get out and spreading to hotels along the Las Vegas Strip
“People started running over to the Tropicana, so we decided to run over to the MGM,” said Clack, whose mother and brother were staying there.
Clack and his girlfriend, Leslie Reynoso, 20, said they hunkered down with family friends at a room at the MGM for about four hours until authorities declared the situation clear.
CHAOS IN THE DARK
In the darkness, nobody knew what the popping sound was at first.
“We couldn’t tell where it was coming from,” said 33-year-old Jason Sorenson of Newport Beach, California, who had traveled to Las Vegas with his girlfriend for the event.
It became clear what was happening when the musicians left the stage.
“It was horrific. We just starting running, and we saw people with blood all over their shirts,” he said. “It wasn’t clear how it bad it was, however, (until) this morning when we walked through the hotel lobby and saw the news on the TVs saying that more than 50 people had died.”
Sorenson said they had initially been sitting down on the ground in the middle of the crowd facing the stage, but they had moved up to a safer VIP area they had access to before the shooting began.
“If we had stayed in the front, we would have been in the direct line of fire,” Sorenson said.
MOMENTS OF KINDNESS
Amid the terror, one couple found moments of kindness, and possibly a guardian angel.
Andrew Akiyoshi, who captured the gunfire on a cellphone video he provided to The Associated Press, attended the concert with friend Loreli Sakach. The couple from Orange County, California, recalled the panic and masses of people fleeing in fear but also the humanity of bystanders.
“We ended up in the MGM, and a couple was nice enough to buy us some drinks,” Akiyoshi said.
Then a rumor swept the crowd at the MGM of another shooter. It turned out to be false. But “all of a sudden a mass of people, probably a hundred people are running again,” Sakach said.
They sought refuge in a restaurant where “they were kind and gave us tablecloths to wear and food and everybody was so nice and kind.”
As they exited one of the hotels, Sakach spotted a penny and picked it up.
“You know, angels must have been looking out over us,” said Akiyoshi, whose late father always believed in picking up pennies for good luck.
Sakach said she handed the penny to Akiyoshi, and he said, “Thanks Dad.”
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