Captain Sean Pendergast (contributed photo).

Captain Sean Pendergast (contributed photo).

Penhold firefighters recall horror and confusion at Las Vegas concert

The Central Albertans offered help and support to fellow concert-goers

Three Penhold firefighters and one of their wives were caught in the midst of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history last weekend.

The four Central Albertans, who’d helped wounded and panic-stricken concert-goers, are still working through difficult emotions in the aftermath of their fateful Las Vegas trip.

In a joint statement about the “unbelievable incident” that was posted online following the 58 deaths and 500 injuries to concert-goers on Sunday, they urged the public to remember the victims, not the killer:

“The casualties should be remembered, feel sad and sorry for them. The shooter should be forgotten. Don’t feel anger or hate for him…”

Like other concert-goers, Sean Pendergast, a Penhold fire department captain, and his fiance, fellow firefighter Danielle Meeres, initially mistook the sound of rapid gunfire for fireworks as they watched country singer Jason Aldean performing at the outdoor Route 91 Harvest Festival.

“But after 10-20 seconds, and three or so bursts of gunfire, the concert stopped, the lights came on, and a massive wall of people were heading towards us,” recalled Pendergast, who described a scene of panic and confusion as concert-goers realized people were being killed.

Although their friends, Mackenzie Johnston, a senior Penhold firefighter, and his wife Laura Johnston, a provincial worker, were also at the show, the couples became separated in the stampede.

At one point, Pendergast recalled a running girl fell and was trampled by fleeing people. He and Meeres shouted “stop, stop, stop!” pushing, and urged the dazed girl to get up and start running.

The two helped force open two exit gates while about 200 shots were being fired. Pendergast and Meeres eventually stopped and sought shelter behind a trailer “to catch our breath and assess.” Were there several shooters? And could they access the casino? Pendergast remembers wondering.

As the gunfire finally trailed off, the two stopped at several hotels to see if they could help.

Meeres assisted a man who’d been shot in the knee get into an elevator. She found towels to wrap his wound as they both hid behind a hotel desk. She later helped push this man, Bobby, in an office chair to paramedics, before turning her attention to a woman with a chest wound.

The firefighters helped calm people who were panicked by grim sighting of a body and crime tape — or crying because they were separated from family members.

But the response of Las Vegas emergency crews was described as “incredible.” Within 20 minutes, a triage tent had been set up in the intersection, with dozens of emergency workers and police — an “amazing” response, said Pendergast.

While he and Meeres had offered assistance at the medical tent, they were told they needed to evacuate.

The Johnstons had also offered to assist people before becoming caught up in the confusion within the casino. A crowd began scrambling to get out the back doors after a shooter was (wrongly) rumoured to have entered from the front.

The Johnstons ended up on the roof of the Tropicana hotel, where they were reunited with their friends.

In the hours following the shooting, the Central Albertans were approached by people who’d noticed their purple fabric concert bracelets and wanted to pass on sympathies. “Cutting that bracelet off was like lifting a weight off my shoulder,” recalled Pendergast.

Penhold Fire Department is grateful for the safety of the volunteers, and “so proud of their efforts in helping the injured and confused in their unbelievable incident.”

The four Central Albertans, now back from Las Vegas, can access counselling through their work, but are “working through this together.” Their thoughts turn to the families of the victims, and to the “countless off-duty police, fire and EMS (personnel) at the concert who risked their lives to save others.”



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

 

Firefighter Danielle Meeres (contributed photo).

Firefighter Danielle Meeres (contributed photo).

Firefighter Mackenzie Johnston (contributed photo).

Firefighter Mackenzie Johnston (contributed photo).

Just Posted

The Town of Ponoka and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) have ratified a new agreement, averting a strike. (File photo from Facebook)
Alberta gov’t ‘using pandemic as shield to lay off workers,’ says AUPE

The Government of Alberta’s “attacks on workers” is continuing with a new… Continue reading

Rocky Mountain House RCMP, EMS, Search and Rescue, STARS air ambulance and Alstrom Helicopters worked together to rescue a fallen ice climber Friday. (Photo contributed by Rocky Mountain House RCMP)
Rocky Mountain House RCMP help rescue fallen ice climber

Rocky Mountain RCMP helped assist a fallen ice climber Friday afternoon. At… Continue reading

Students Association of Red Deer College president Brittany Lausen says she’s pleased the college is offering students a choice to attend class in-person or remotely. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Red Deer College winter term enrolment dips

Enrolment down about six per cent but mix of online and in-person instruction is going over well

Brett Salomons, of Salomons Commercial, and Mark Jones, CEO of the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, in the CACAC's new temporary home. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre’s One Day Challenge returns

Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre has announced its One Day Challenge is… Continue reading

Dwayne Buckle, 40 of Red Deer finished a 1,638-kilometre walk, in honour of his family. The 12-week, 82 day-journey wrapped up in Port Hardy, B.C. on Monday. Facebook photo
Red Deer man completes 1,638 km hike for cancer research

Dwayne Buckle, a Red Deer firefighter returned home Friday after his 12-week journey

A Suncor logo is shown at the company's annual meeting in Calgary, Thursday, May 2, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Body of worker whose bulldozer fell through ice on inactive tailings pond recovered

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Oilpatch giant Suncor says the body of a… Continue reading

A restaurant manager in Orlando used a sign to secretly ask an 11-year-old boy if he needs help from his family after they were spotted withholding food from him. (Photo courtesy Orlando Police Department)
WATCH: Restaurant manager uses secret note to ‘rescue’ child, says Orlando Police

The manager of an Orlando restaurant is receiving praise from police after… Continue reading

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will cripple struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

VICTORIA — A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Quebec and Ontario, the two provinces hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic,… Continue reading

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police "E" Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday April 13, 2018. A young snowshoer who set out alone on a rugged mountain trail on Vancouver's north shore Thursday has died. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Snowshoer dies after overnight search on Vancouver-area mountain: RCMP

SQUAMISH, B.C. — A snowshoer who set out alone on a rugged… Continue reading

nunavut
‘It was joyous:’ Sun returns to some Nunavut communities for first time in weeks

IQALUIT — A sliver of orange rose over Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, earlier… Continue reading

People take photos through the extensive security surrounding the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, ahead of the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh
Less pomp, very different circumstances as D.C. prepares to inaugurate Biden, Harris

WASHINGTON — Some pomp. Very different circumstances. Inauguration day is supposed to… Continue reading

Winnipeg Jets' Nathan Beaulieu (88) and Nikolaj Ehlers (27) defend against Jansen Harkins (12) during scrimmage at their NHL training camp practice in Winnipeg, Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Winnipeg Jets cancel practice due to possible COVID-19 exposure

WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets have cancelled their practice today due to… Continue reading

Most Read