Just 2 nights ago, a gunman opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas, killing at least 59 and injuring more than 500. Despite the chaos that erupted over the crowd during the horrific event, several brave people risked their own personal safety to help others, and managed to save multiple lives.
The shooting, which is now being called the worst in modern US history, took place during the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Shots began ringing out at the end of a performance by country star Jason Aldean, which were later determined to have come from the window of a hotel room in the nearby Mandalay Bay Resort. The perpetrator, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, shot himself an hour after the massacre, just before police could apprehend him.
In honor of all victims and their loved ones, we've collected the most heroic stories from the harrowing night below, and we hope you'll read each one in memory of the sacrifices they made.
#1 Jonathan Smith, 30, Saved ~30 People Last Night Before He Was Shot In The Neck. He Might Live With The Bullet For Rest Of His Life
Jonathan Smith was at the Route 91 Harvest Festival to celebrate his brother's 43rd birthday. The copy machine repairman from Orange County, CA, initially thought he was hearing fireworks as Jason Aldean finished his song, but when the country singer ran off the stage, the music stopped, and the lights went out, it was clear what was really happening. In the stampede of fleeing concertgoers that followed, Smith ended up separated from all 9 of his accompanying family members, but still did his best to corral groups of terrified people and usher them to safe hiding places. “Active shooter, active shooter, let’s go! We have to run," he repeatedly shouted. When he stood up to urge a group of young girls to get on the ground, a bullet struck him in the neck. An off-duty San Diego police officer helped to stop his bleeding until help arrived. Though Smith thankfully survived, as did his entire family, he may have to live with a bullet in the side of his neck for the rest of his life, as doctors feared further injury if they tried to displace it. "I would want someone to do the same for me. No one deserves to lose a life coming to a country festival," Smith told Washington Post.
#2 If Everyone Could Please Pray For My Dad And Everyone Else At The Rout 91 He Jumped In Front Of My Mom And Got Shot
This Twitter post was shared by Jake Beaton of Bakersfield, CA. His father, Jack Beaton, was tragically shot and killed while shielding his wife, Laurie, from the hail of bullets that engulfed the Route 91 Harvest Festival. "He put Laurie on the ground and covered her with his body and he got shot I don't know how many times," Laurie's father, Jerry Cook, told BakersfieldNow. "Laurie was saying he was bleeding through the mouth, bleeding profusely, she knew he was dying. He told her he loved her. Laurie could tell he was slipping. She told him she loved him and she would see him in heaven." Beaton reportedly "never passed up an opportunity to give somebody a hand."
#3 Former Marine Taylor Winston And His Friend, Jenn Lewis, Found A Truck With Keys In It And Transported About 2 Dozen Priority Victims To The Hospital
29-year-old Taylor Winston was near the righthand side of the stage when the Route 91 shooting began. He managed to flee the scene unharmed along with his friend, Jenn Lewis, and eventually spotted a work truck with keys in the ignition and no apparent owner. Without a second thought, they began seeking out critically wounded people and piling them in. "People needed to get out of there, and we tried the best we could to get as many as we could," Winston told The Daily Beast. They were able to transport around 2 dozen people to the hospital after a squad car escorted them through traffic.
#4 This Man Took A Bullet While Protecting My Sister From The Gunfire In Vegas
This photo was posted to Reddit by user tynation, and has since received more than 159 thousand upvotes. The user's sister has yet to come forward with her side of the story, and is reportedly dealing with intense anxiety.
#5 Sonny Melton With His Wife, Heather. He Was Sadly Killed While Covering His Wife During The Las Vegas Shooting
Sonny Melton, a nurse from Big Sandy, Tennessee, was celebrating his first wedding anniversary with his wife, Heather, when the gunshots broke out. Sonny grabbed Heather and began running, shielding her from harm, but was fatally shot in the process. “He saved my life... I felt him get shot in the back," Heather told a Tennessee radio station. She went on to write that she had lost her “true love and knight in shining armor” in a mournful Facebook post. "Sonny was the most kind-hearted, loving man I have ever met. He saved my life and lost his."
#6 New Mother Takes A Bullet After Leaping On Her Stricken Boyfriend’s Body To Shield Him...
#7 Firefighter Steve Keys Was Shot While Performing Cpr On A Woman At The Concert
"Prayers needed. Lot of people hit. A lot killed," firefighter Steve Keys wrote in an emotional Facebook post. One of the first responders at the scene of the shooting, he was performing CPR on a wounded woman when a bullet grazed his chest and stomach. Despite the fact that he was bleeding, Keys stayed on-site and continued helping whoever he could, and was later picked up by a friend and driven to be treated. "I'm ok. But a lot of people aren't. I am lucky," he further wrote.
#8 Carly Krygier Immediately Got Her Daughter On The Ground And Shielded Her
San Diego resident Carly Krygier was seated towards the back of the music festival with her young daughter when the shooting started. "I put the baby on the ground and got on top of her," Carly told CNN, apparently without a second of hesitation. Later, they fled behind a set of bleachers, but sensing a lack of safety in that area, the pair ran to the nearby Tropicana Hotel with a crowd. Krygier went on to note that her daughter was "incredibly brave," and did not "cry or scream or ask what was going on." Both mother and daughter escaped with no injuries.
#9 Retired Teacher Mike Cronk Braved Gunfire And Used His Shirt To Stop Bleeding Of His Friend Who Had Been Shot Three Times
48-year-old retired teacher Mike Cronk was immediately aware of what was going on when he heard bullets hitting a nearby fence. His senses heightened even further when his 52-year-old best friend, Rob MacIntosh, was shot 3 times. "I saw him there and I wasn't going to leave him," Cronk told ABC News. With the help of some EMTs and ex-military members, he successfully moved Rob under the concert stage, and stabilized him by compressing his wounds with his own shirt. Cronk then went on to help load other injured people into an ambulance, one of whom tragically died in his arms. "It could have been me that got shot. So many people... very thankful right now."
#10 Iraq War Veteran Chris Bethel Helped Direct Cops To Vegas Shooter’s Room
Chris Bethel, an Iraq war veteran, was in Las Vegas for an IT conference and staying at the Mandalay Bay Resort when he heard gunshots just 2 floors up from his hotel room. He called the police, not knowing at that point that right above him a man was committing the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, firing a hail of bullets onto a crowd at a nearby country music festival. "I crouched by my front door, in hopes that I might get the opportunity to see the shooter if he ran by and I could identify him," he told CBS News. Bethel's call would later help the police trace the shooter's location, where they found him dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
#11 Mike Mcgarry, A Financial Adviser From Philadelphia, Threw Himself On Top Of His Children As Shots Rang Out. ‘They're 20. I'm 53. I Lived A Good Life'
According to a report from Reuters, Philadelphia financial adviser Mike McGarry threw himself on top of his children to protect them after he realized gunshots had broken out. "They're 20. I'm 53," he was quoted as saying. "I lived a good life." As the fleeing crowd became a stampede, McGarry reportedly ended up with footprints on the back of his shirt from where people had stepped on him. Thankfully, he and his children escaped unharmed.
#12 Lindsay Padgett Turned Her Truck Into A Makeshift Ambulance To Take People To The Hospital
29-year-old Lindsay Padgett thought the loud popping sounds that interrupted Jason Aldean's performance were just part of the show - until people started screaming to 'get on the ground.' "I thought for sure we were all going to die," she told ABC News. When the gunshots briefly subsided, Padgett and her fiance, Mike Jay, fled the scene unharmed and fetched their truck. "We realized there were people everywhere that needed help and on stretchers... People saw that we had a truck, so we said, 'Fine, yeah,' and started to pack everyone in." On their way to the hospital, with 10 people on their backseat, they encountered a stopped ambulance and handed off their most critically injured passengers. They then continued on to bring the rest to the emergency room. "We were ready to go back and get more people, but my cousin called me because they were scared... So we went there to get my cousin and my family."
#13 He's A Police Officer That Was One Of The First There. This Was The Back Seat Of His Police Care After Having To Put A Woman Inside With Gunshot Wound To The Head
Officer Richard Cole was one of the many police officers responding to the gruesome scene of Sunday's brutal massacre in Las Vegas. His cousin shared the following photos of his squad car and uniform after helping wounded victims, including a woman with a gunshot wound to the head.
#14 Los Angeles Fire Captain Mark Mccurdy Saved His Sister-In-Law, Jessi Presten, After She Was Shot And Carried Her Back To The Hotel Room
Los Angeles fire captain Mark McCurdy was at the Route 91 festival with his wife, Kelly, and her sister, Jessi Preston. When Jessi was shot, McCurdy discreetly carried her to Luxor hotel. McCurdy then went back into the danger zone to see if any more help was needed, and then had an ambulance take Jessi to Sunrise Hospital.
#15 Off-Duty Firefighter Kurt Fowler Was Shot And Seriously Wounded At The Route 91 Harvest Festival In Las Vegas While Shielding His Wife From Gunfire
An off-duty firefighter from Lake Havasu City, Arizona, shielded his wife from gunfire during the Route 91 shooting. Kurt Fowler was shot in his right leg and seriously wounded in the process. He has since had surgery, and is expected to recover. "Kurt is a very devoted family man. Good father, good husband," Erickson and Desert Hills fire captain Steve Bunn told CBS News. "He's one of our brothers, and we're doing the best we can to support him and his family."