A Methuen native who escaped the gunfire at the Las Vegas strip shooting said chaos quickly gripped the concert as gunfire rained down on the crowd, forcing people — many of them wounded — to scramble and knock over fences in a panicked race to safety.
“At first you think, ‘This isn’t real,’” Mandi Thornton, a 26-year-old Methuen native who recently moved to California, told the Herald. “This has to be some sort of prank, some joke. Then all you think about is, ‘Get away, get away as fast as you can.’ That’s all I could think of. Just get out of there.”
Thornton said she and her friend, Bryanna Giorgio, 25, also of Metheun, had traveled to Las Vegas specifically to attend the Route 91 Harvest Festival to see country music star Jason Aldean.
But about four songs into the singer’s set last night, Thornton said she heard what sounded like fireworks interrupt the show. But the video board next to the stage quickly went dark, and Aldean disappeared from the stage — and the sounds “just kept on going.”
“At first we started ducking down and thinking, ‘Is this really happening?’” said Thornton, who said she was standing close to the left side of the stage. She said the gunfire sounded like it was focused on the right side, closer to the Mandalay Bay hotel where police say Stephen Paddock had opened fire from the 32nd floor.
“All of a sudden everyone started running,” she said. “We had no idea if it was somebody in the crowd or somebody on the strip, or where it was coming from. We could hear it was louder toward the (other) side (of the venue). So we were just running around away from the noise. … It just kept coming and coming. It sounded like it was not going to stop.”
Thornton described people scrambling over nearby barricades or kicking down fences to escape. “People were getting trampled,” she said. “It was just chaos.”
“We saw people with gunshot wounds in their arms. One kid had (a gunshot wound) in his ribs. He seemed OK, he was running away with us,” Thornton added. “We saw some people who were not OK.”
Thornton said she and Giorgio found shelter into the nearby Tropicana Hotel, where they hid with several people in the bathroom. Giorgio had fallen and was bleeding from a scrape, but as they were trying to clean her up, the crowd got “spooked” and they fled to a nearby motel, she said.
“They hid us in the back room in the office,” she said. “We stayed there laying on the ground for almost…