Nine friends from the Bellingham area narrowly escaped the gunfire that sprayed over the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Sunday night in Las Vegas.
Jeff Bannerman, of Ferndale, Whatcom County, who took cover with his wife beneath concert bleachers, said no one in their group was seriously hurt.
Bannerman said the mood Sunday night was festive and “everybody was having a great time” before gunfire tore into the crowd.
“Jason Aldean was playing. It was a beautiful night,” he said. “Then all hell breaks loose.”
At first, it sounded like firecrackers, he said.
“Well, it wasn’t firecrackers, it was some sort of assault rifle,” he said. “It was so fast.”
He took cover with his wife, Deanna, beneath some bleachers. A police officer dived underneath the bleachers near them, he said, along with a gunshot victim.
“We were underneath the bleachers for 20 to 25 minutes,” Bannerman said. “There was human matter and blood all over the ground.”
He called his children, who are 20 and 22 years old, from beneath the bleachers.
“My wife and I had to say goodbye to my kids,” Bannerman said. “Oh my god. My wife’s just beside herself. You tell your kids you love them, take care of yourself and your sister — what parent wants to do that?”
During a break in the gunfire, Bannerman and his wife fled the concert ground.
“We were running and I see these people laying out in the middle [of the concert area],” Bannerman said.
He attempted CPR on a woman.
“This guy comes up to me and says, ‘Dude, don’t waste your time, she’s gone.’ And I said, ‘I can’t leave her.’ I had to just walk away and I left her there,” Bannerman said, his voice breaking over the phone.
He and his wife worked their way back to the MGM Grand Hotel, where they were staying.
“It took us an hour or so to get back to the MGM, and our cellphones are going nuts,” he said, with messages from family and friends, wondering if they were OK.
“We had nine people in our group, and one of the girls had some scratches and bruises on her legs from crawling underneath bleachers. Other than that everybody’s fine,” he said.
“We’re fortunate we made it out. I don’t know what the death toll is at now … I feel for all of those people who didn’t make it.”
Bannerman said he managed only an hour of sleep last night. He took a walk near the hotel Monday morning in a daze, he said.
He and his wife are flying home later Monday.
Before he returns to the Pacific Northwest, though, he has a task to complete.
Last night, Bannerman collected a few cellphones strewn in the streets. Some of the phones, he believes, belong to victims of the shooting.
“I just threw them in my pocket thinking they’d get discarded,” he said.
He plans to return them to victims, or if that’s not possible, their families.