October 3, 2017 twelve off-duty firefighters were shot in Sunday night’s massacre at a country music festival, including two who were performing CPR on victims when they were hit. Another off-duty first responder at the concert had to tell people to leave their dead loved ones behind and get to safety. Those harrowing details emerged Tuesday at a news conference held by the Professional Fire Fighters of Nevada at the Las Vegas Fire Fighters Union Hall, where uninjured firefighters described what they did when the shooting began. Las Vegas paramedic and firefighter Benjamin Kole described the moment when bullets began to rain down on the crowd of thousands of concert-goers.
Kole said his friend, who is a corrections officer, knocked him to the ground and shielded him from the barrage. Seconds later, the two took cover.“At that time, I realized that my daughter was still there,” Kole told a room of reporters. Kole’s 20-year-old daughter Rachel was working the event for an ambulance company. The gunfire continued for several minutes, but Kole said he never heard another shot as he searched for his daughter. “We embraced each other, shed a few tears, looked at each other and said, ‘It’s time to get to work,’” Kole said.
Kole and his daughter helped set up an unofficial triage area to take care of victims on the east side of the concert grounds. He said he called his dispatch to set up a staging area nearby for medical units to report to. Advertisement “The civilians were amazing coming together, listening to directions, staying calm, doing what they can,” Kole said. Kole and his daughter went to their first counseling session Monday. He urged others who helped with the rescue effort to do the same.
“She knew I had to go” Jesse Gomez, a firefighter with the Clark County Fire Department, was at the concert with family. They were on the left side of the stage when bullets started to spray the festival grounds. As they were running for the exit, Gomez saw a woman on the ground who was bleeding from the head. He stopped to help the woman as his family ran away. After he and a group got the woman away from the concert, he told his wife he was going to stay. “She said I had the keys, so I ran back to the car and I handed her the keys and she begged me not to go,” Gomez said. “It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, but she knew I had to go.”
He said his wife took a stranger from Texas who had been shot in the back to the emergency room. She later looked him up on social media, and he is expected to be released from the hospital. Gomez returned to the scene and started taking people to the street with another man as the shooting continued. He didn’t know where the gunfire was coming from, but it sounded close.
He then called his dispatch and helped direct concert-goers out of east side of the music venue. “It was incredible how many people stayed to help,” Gomez said, adding that there were off-duty firefighters, nurses, EMTs and police officers assisting in the effort. People were using fences, tarpaulins and trash cans to carry the wounded from the concert grounds, Gomez said. There were people who didn’t want to leave their dead loved ones behind, he said, so he had to convince them to run for their lives.
The off-duty firefighters who were shot were from various parts of Nevada, Arizona and Southern California, said Angelo Aragon, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Nevada.