A group of six Castlegar residents were among those sitting in the stands at a country music festival in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire.
Jo-Ann Bursey, a realtor, was part of the group and describes what happened that night.
“We were sitting in the bleachers … watching Jason Aldean — he was the last act that played for the night — and heard some, what I thought was, fireworks,” she said.
“I looked above — all of us did, it was a group of eight of us — and we looked up and we just went, ‘That’s not fireworks.’ The music stopped and the shots started again.”
Bursey’s group was separated but managed to meet up later. They hid underneath the bleachers and heard more shots.
“Then it was just mayhem. Everybody’s running and trying to take cover, not knowing. You could tell the shots were up high, then the sound changed and it just got louder, and we were running across the parking lot, hiding in between the tents for some of the booths that were there,” she said.
“We got out by a … parkade and sat down on the ground behind a cement wall and then managed to get into the Excalibur, where they ushered tons of people through and then we sat in the lobby on the floor for a while. Then we were on lockdown until 4:30 in the morning.”
Bursey and her group were staying at the Luxor Hotel & Casino, across the street from the Mandalay Bay Hotel, where the shooter, Stephen Craig Paddock, was firing from a room on the 32nd floor.
Bursey and her group had eaten dinner at the Mandalay earlier in the evening.
“It was pretty surreal,” said Bursey, who was making her way back to Castlegar Tuesday morning. “Can’t wait — going to kiss the Canadian ground when I get back in a couple of hours.”
Six of the people in Bursey’s group, including herself, were from Castlegar and two were from Texas. None of them was injured, but they ended up looking after a Las Vegas girl while they were fleeing.
“We kind of put her underneath our wing and took her with us because she was by herself and she had two friends. But I’ve been in touch with her since we got out of Vegas — we got out of Vegas last night — and two of her friends did die,” said Bursey.
“It was pretty traumatic, so we had her spend the night in lockdown with us and then took her back to our hotel — once they allowed us to go back in — and just ensured that she got home safely.”
Bursey also met an elderly woman who had been injured.
“I’m looking at her and I say, ‘Are you OK? You have some blood on your shoulder,’ and she said, ‘Yeah, I got shot.’”
Bursey asked to take a look and found that the woman’s shoulder had been glazed by shrapnel. Bursey told her she needed to get looked at, but the woman replied, ‘There are more people hurt more than I am. I will be OK.”
Bursey brought the woman to the attention of security to make sure she got help.
More than 500 people were wounded, and 59 people were killed in what’s considered the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Paddock was found dead by the Las Vegas Metro Police Department SWAT team when they breached his hotel room.