The couple was close to the stage, with a view of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel.

The couple was close to the stage, with a view of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel.

Maple Ridge couple survived Vegas mass shooting

Helped others escape hail of bullets

A Maple Ridge couple survived the Las Vegas mass shooting.

Then they spent hours horrified, convinced the city was under attack by terrorists, as reports came in about shots fired across the city.

Paramedic Sean Kettley and his wife Abbey Workman were among the 22,000 people at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. The country music fans were there for all three days, and had been having a great time. Soon they would be part of a crowd under a hail of bullets that killed 59 and injured more than 500.

It started at about 10:00 p.m. on Saturday.

“The crowd is shoulder to shoulder, but every everyone is getting along good,” recalls Kettley.

And then he heard popping sounds like fireworks. He didn’t immediately recognize it as gunfire, but he didn’t discard the possibility, thinking “We are in the States…”

Performer Jason Aldean kept playing.

Then there was more pops.

Kettley locked eyes with a woman in the crowd who was also paying attention to the shots. It was the dawning realization and terror he saw in her face that confirmed his own fears. He grabbed his wife’s hand and started to run.

They were moving before anyone else around them, but soon everyone was in motion – many simply ducking down.

“Some of them were probably shot.”

He ran east, away from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino – but not because he knew that’s where the shots were coming from.

“It sounded like it was coming from everywhere,” said Workman.

“It really did sound like there were multiple people shooting,” said Kettley. “And the more we ran, the more the sound followed us.

“Each burst of firing got longer.”

They saw people dropping, and were not sure whether they were hit, or had just fallen.

His training as an emergency responder made him want to stop and help people, but Kettley’s instincts all told him to get out of there.

He climbed a fence and, being an athlete who just ran the Tough Mudder, was able to pull himself up onto a wall some 10 to 12-feet high, and then helped his wife up. On the other side was a parking lot, with hedges that would provide a visual screen.

“The gunfire was still going, and it felt like it was coming right at us.”

“I was truly afraid for my life.”

More people needed help getting over, and Kettley couldn’t simply leave them.

“The fear and hopelessness in these people’s eyes…”

He stayed up on the wall and lifted people over, helping about six or seven to safety. A couple were covered in blood, that they said was not their own.

Finally another man told him to go, saying he would “get the next round.”

Kettley dropped to the ground on the other side of the wall. Somehow he lost his shoe, and went back for it. Another person launched off the wall fall on top of him. He got his shoe and ran away from the chaos with his wife, seeking safety.

They got into a charter helicopter business at the nearby airport, where security staff let the fleeing people in. Some people hid under desks. Security told people to stay away from windows.

Trying to find out what was happening, they saw social media reports of shots fired at numerous hotels on the The Strip. They turned out to be false, likely caused by echoes of the shooting from the Mandalay Bay, but they added to the horror that night.

“We thought Las Vegas was under attack. We really did,” Kettley said. “We thought this was a terrorist attack.”

Airport shuttle buses gathered people, and drove them to the far end of the airport property.

“Even on the buses, people were saying ‘turn out the lights.’ People were so scared for their lives.”

They were unloaded, but had nowhere to go. Close to 100 people took shelter under a freeway on ramp, not knowing where to go for safety. They waited there over an hour.

Finally the Las Vegas Police Twitter account released that it had been one shooter, and advised guests to get to their hotel rooms, and stay there.

USA Today dubbed the incident “90 minutes of terror,” but the Maple Ridge couple did not get back to their hotel, The Westin, until about 2:30 a.m.

“We got to the hotel, and everyone had that sort of ghost look on their face – something terrible had just happened.”

They had met a lot of people, including many Canadians, during their time at the festival.

“You can’t help wondering, of all the people we met and talked to, whether they got out of there.”

Another Maple Ridge man, Jordan McIldoon, was among the 59 people killed in the shooting. He was one of four Canadians who died. Another 500 people were injured when a 64-year-old opened fire on the crowd for nine minutes from his room on the 32nd floor at the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Arriving at the festival.

Arriving at the festival.

Just Posted

A sign encouraging COVID-19 safety steps, with the Bayside rugby clubhouse – located adjacent to Semiahmoo Secondary and the South Surrey track – in background; Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo: Tracy Holmes)
Surrey sees 2,400 new COVID-19 cases in February

This is the lowest monthly increase since last fall

A CVS pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Photo: Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
COVID-19 vaccination bookings start Monday for some Surrey seniors

First up is seniors aged 90-plus, and Indigenous seniors, elders aged 65-plus

Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole speaks during a virtual South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce town hall on Saturday, March 6, 2021.
O’Toole says South Surrey, White Rock face ‘acute’ challenges during pandemic

Federal Conservative leader speaks at local chamber town hall

Labour Minister Harry Bains addressing Surrey Board of Trade digital meeting Friday. (Screen shot)
Labour Minister says Surrey businesses’ resilience through pandemic ‘impressive’

‘Surrey’s effort in bending the curve has been among the best,’ Harry Bains says

Volunteers from Semiahmoo Secondary joined with members of the Lower Mainland Green Team and the White Rock and South Surrey Naturalists Wednesday to remove invasive plants from White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park. (Contributed photo)
Students, volunteers remove invasive plants from White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park

Day-long project a collaboration between city, Lower Mainland Green Team

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

The family of injured Willoughby resident Ronald Gerald Jesso is hoping someone saw something that will help solve the mystery of how he came to be so badly hurt on the morning of Feb. 22. Jesso is still in hospital. (Jesso family/Special to Langley Advance Times)
An appeal to help solve the mystery of an injured Langley man

Family of Ronald Gerald Jesso asks witnesses to come forward

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

B.C. RCMP Lower Mainland District officer, Asst. Commissioner Stephen Thatcher presents RCMP blankets to (from left) Chief James Hobart, Chief Maureen Chapman, Chief Derek Epp and Chief Mark Point. (RCMP)
Historic agreement significantly expands Indigenous role in Lower Mainland policing

Community Safety Agreement builds relationship of ‘trust, communication and prevention,’ says Chief

Most Read