The four friends sat on the bleachers, listening to the music when they heard the pop-pop-pop of gun shots.
This was the first time Prince Rupert residents Dwayne MacNeill and his wife Michelle travelled to Vegas, with friends Gordon Davis and Christine Desautels.
“We decided the night of the shooting to sit up in the bleachers in the far end of the field. In previous nights we had been further down. I don’t know why we stayed in the bleachers this time, but we did,” MacNeill said.
On Sunday night, Oct. 1, they were at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Country singer Jason Aldean was on stage when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fired on the crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino along the Las Vegas strip.
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“I’ve heard gun fire in the past. This was like fire crackers,” MacNeill said.
He saw people fleeing close to the stage, and bodies laying on the ground. The bleachers they were on were collapsible and they had people get down behind the panels in between the volley of gunfire. He said the event staff had left immediately, and he had to think quickly with his friend Davis. MacNeill spent years with the RCMP auxiliary and Davis is a firefighter and emergency responder.
“People had no idea where to go or what to do. Gord and I started ushering them between the bleachers into safety,” he said. Every time the shots started again they had people get behind the bleachers, and when it stopped they started moving.
He saw people on portable chairs completely oblivious to what was going on, and they ushered them out of the area, away from the gunfire. Concertgoers were panicking and many times he had to stop people from trampling over others. There was no organization, no police, just MacNeill and Davis assisting hundreds of people trying to flee.
“It just seemed like it was taking forever,” he said.
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Eventually, off-duty police came in and took over from MacNeill and Davis and they were able to find safety with their wives. When they finally left the music venue, he saw a man with a bloody bandage on his head who was refusing assistance. MacNeill gained his trust and examined the wound, it wasn’t critical. Later, when they were in lock-down at the Tropicana hotel, he found the man had collapsed in the bathroom and they helped him get medical attention.
“They kept us into lock-down in Tropicana until 3:30 a.m. in the morning. It was hard to get information on what was accurate and what wasn’t accurate. Big hats off to the police force that are there. It was crazy to see that many police,” MacNeill said.
He also knew quite a few people from Prince Rupert that were right beside people that were killed, and is so thankful they escaped the mass shooting with their lives.
On Monday night, they flew into Terrace and on the drive back to the North Coast, MacNeill said that was when it all began to sink in.
“For the most part we’re okay, but there’s a lot of people that will not be,” he said.
The Las Vegas shooting is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, with at least 59 people killed and 527 injured. The shooter’s motive is still unknown.