Canadians returning from Las Vegas recount tales of panic, horror

VANCOUVER — Canadians who were in Las Vegas during Sunday’s deadly mass shooting are returning home, bringing with them stories of chaos and terror.

Toronto resident Ryan Bedrosian was in Nevada attending a country music festival with his sister and said they were passing through the festival’s main gates when the shooting began.

Bedrosian, who flew into Vancouver on Monday, said he remembers the sound of bullets spraying the ground around him and not knowing where to run.

“The scariest part there was the first 10 minutes, just running as fast as you can, as hard as you can, for your life,” he said.

“It was just complete chaos. (You) saw people falling and you knew they were hit.”

United States officials say nearly 60 people were killed and more than 500 wounded after a lone gunman opened fire from the window of a highrise hotel room overlooking the busy Las Vegas strip late Sunday.

Two Canadians are confirmed among the dead — an Alberta mother of four and a British Columbia man days shy of his 24th birthday.

Victoria resident Hudson Mack and his family arrived by plane in Las Vegas on Monday after being told his son, Sheldon, had been shot and was in the intensive care unit in hospital.

Mack said someone dragged Sheldon to safety and managed to get him in an ambulance.

“Whoever you are, thank you. He was hit twice, in the forearm and abdomen. The prognosis is good,” he said in a statement issued on Facebook.

Lisa Manley of Maple Ridge, B.C., said she was walking outside along Las Vegas’s main street when pandemonium broke out.

“There was like a firecracker that went off, and it just wouldn’t stop. Then they told us to get down on the ground,” Manley said. “People screaming, yelling, ‘Active shooter! Active shooter!’ And people running. Just going anywhere.”

Manley spent hours huddling with others in the kitchen area of a hotel conference centre until police told them it was safe to come out.

Victoria’s police chief, Del Manak, was watching a Cirque du Soleil performance with his wife when the curtains closed suddenly and staff came over the speakers asking everyone to stay in their seats. Police officers came in and the theatre was locked down for four and a half hours.

Manak said he had mixed emotions about being a citizen rather than a police officer.

“To be there with my wife and I’m one of 3,000 people inside a theatre, obviously the roles were reversed and I’m not accustomed to being in that situation so it was a bit unnerving,” he said.

Seeing such competent, well-trained police officers in the room brought a sense of calmness, Manak said.

Laura Xausa-Thomas of Langley, B.C., was in her hotel room the night of the shooting preparing for an early-morning flight the next day. She remembers hearing fireworks and sirens, which she assumed was part of a show until she opened the window.

“You see swarms of people. You turn on the TV and hear there’s this mass shooting. You don’t believe it’s actually happening. The hotel went into lockdown and we were told we couldn’t leave. It was just chaos. People crying,” she said.

“It was such a senseless, senseless crime,” she added, her eyes tearing up in the arrivals area of the Vancouver airport. “They were just innocent people there who were watching a concert. It could have been me, very easily.”

Las Vegas resident Robert Jones arrived into Vancouver for work Monday, but said it was hard to leave his 14-year-old son behind.

“This is the world that we live in today. So we might as well brace ourselves,” he said. “You can’t protect yourself from something like this. It’s very tragic, and my heart is very sore and empty from this.”

Joseph Lambourne of Teulon, Man., told CTV Winnipeg he was headed to Vegas to be with his wife, Jan, who was wounded in the shooting along with her friend Jody Ansell of Stonewall, Man.

He wept as he recalled getting the call that she’d been injured, followed by a text message that “scared the hell out of me,” and read: “I love you, I’ve been shot. I love you so much.”

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