A dream trip for two Treasure Valley couples who won tickets to the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas turned into their worst nightmare as they watched people gunned down in front of them as they scrambled to get out of the line of fire.
“Up until that moment, this is the greatest trip of our lives,” Meridian resident Josh Stewart told the hosts of the “Rick & Carly in the Morning” show on WOW 104.3 in a phone interview Monday morning. “It just went from the greatest to the worst in a matter of seconds.”
Stewart was with his wife, Nicole Smith. The other festival ticket winners were Natalie and Richard Anderson of Boise.
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“People started running in every direction immediately,” Stewart said.
His wife was trampled a bit in the scramble.
Natalie Anderson told the radio show hosts on air Monday morning that she and her husband were getting food when the shooting started. They hit the ground near a chain-link fence when they realized it wasn’t fireworks, she said.
The crowd rushed the fence, Anderson said, and she got a bit banged up as they knocked it down. She and her husband joined others in running for cover in a dirt lot.
“We ran behind a cop car and got behind cover. Unfortunately, there was a girl who ran to the front [of the car], and she was shot right next to us in the head,” Anderson said, her voice breaking with tears. “We stayed behind it for a few minutes. As soon as the shots stopped, we started running again. And we hid on a flat-bed truck for a while. The shots stopped again, and then we ran again to a big rig. There were about 20 of us hunkering down under a big rig truck.”
When the shooting stopped, they tried to find their way back to the Mirage hotel. They encountered people running out of other hotels, saying there was a shooter inside.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “How many shooters are there in town for God’s sake?”
Still in shock on Monday morning, Anderson said she couldn’t stop shaking.
“But we’re OK, I mean God bless,” she said. “I mean, all those people that were killed just literally around us.”
Stewart told the hosts that “time seemed to stand still, like it was never going to end. All anybody wanted it to do was stop.”
He told the hosts that the shooter fired so many rounds it was impossible to estimate the number of bullets. Stewart and Smith were hiding behind a car with a group of others when a wounded woman was brought to safety and laid in Stewart’s lap, he said.
“She had been shot in the arm, so she’s bleeding all over,” he said. “A guy pulled up in a pickup, we waved him down and loaded her into it and away he went. He was going straight to the hospital.”
Radio personality Rick Dunn said he couldn’t sleep last night, and when he heard about the mass shooting he began trying to reach the two local couples. He shared his attempts to reach the couples on air and online, asking listeners to pray for their safety and all the victims of the shooting.
Another Boisean was caught in the madness, according to the Las Vegas Sun. Gabe Allen, a Boise restaurant manager, told the Sun that a friend standing near him was shot in the knee.
That was Jason Hammond, who lives in Emmett and teaches at a cosmetology school in Nampa. Another bullet grazed Hammond’s forehead. He is expected to be OK, his father, Mike Hammond, told KEPR TV in Washington state’s Tri Cities.
Allen posted a Facebook Live video of the crowd crouching down. Hammond appears a few minutes before being hit.
In another video, Allen said he witnessed two people die during the crisis and tried to render aid to others who were hurt.
“I’m honestly not really feeling anything right now. It was just all so surreal,” Allen told the Sun.
As some Idahoans tried to come to grips with their experience, state legislators joined the conversation, offering condolences.
“Idahoans join with our Nevada neighbors and all Americans in praying for the victims of last night’s terrible shooting in Las Vegas,” said Gov. Butch Otter via Facebook.
“As our nation mourns and remembers the lives lost in Las Vegas, we gather in solidarity to uplift those left to heal and those left to grieve. I commend the selfless actions of first responders and everyday citizens who rushed to save, protects and care for their fellow man. Instances like this heinous crime seek to destroy our sense of security and aim to divide. May we unite in the fight against evil with an ever-vigilant drive toward peace.”
On Facebook, Rep. Mike Simpson expressed his horror over the shooting.
“Like Americans everywhere, I’m anxious to learn more about how and why this situation occurred. Though no words can heal our hurt, and no explanation will ever feel sufficient, I pray that all involved may find comfort as we process this devastating tragedy,” he wrote.
Commenters on social media slammed the legislators over their voting records on gun control, asking both to impose tighter restrictions on assault weapons and carefully consider pending laws on silencers.