It was the gunshots Taylor Benge heard first – a series of pops in quick succession. It wasn’t until the lights came up that the 21-year-old realized the severity of the situation, as a gunman opened fire on Route 91 Harvest country music festival late Sunday, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500 others.
The gunman, identified by police as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel into the crowd of 22,000 where Jason Aldean was playing. Paddock was killed during a standoff with police, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.
“About five feet to the left of me there was a man with a bullet wound to his chin,” Benge told The Portland Press-Herald. That’s when Benge and his sister threw themselves to the ground as the gunfire continued, then dashed for an exit.
“My jeans are covered in someone’s blood, my T-shirt is covered in someone’s blood, my sister’s whole leg was covered in blood,” Benge said.
As details continue to emerge in what has become the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history, the survivors have shared stories from the scene.
Lindsay Padgett, 21, told ABC News that she ran from the gunfire with her fiance and friends.
“I’m surprised, I really am that no one I know was injured – I thought for sure we were all going to die,” she said. “We saw everyone being shot left and right.”
After reaching safety, her fiance, Mike Jay, collected their pickup truck from a nearby parking lot.
“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,” Padgett told ABC News.
On the way to a hospital with five injured people, they spotted an ambulance. Paramedics moved the most seriously injured to the ambulance, Padgett said. One of the men, who had been shot in the back, later died, she said.
Scott Kibby, a high school principal from Iowa City, Iowa, told The Cedar Rapids Gazette that – like many survivors – he initially mistook the gunfire for fireworks or feedback.
“There was a pause, and then it was just raining,” Kibby said. “And it was continuous.”
He and his wife, who had visited Las Vegas as a belated 30th-anniversary trip, ran to the MGM Grand hotel.
“We hid behind a marble counter,” Kibby said. “We didn’t know if someone was following us.”
They then hid in a conference room until early Monday morning, when they returned to their hotel.
Instagram star and professional poker player Dan Bilzerian filmed himself fleeing the shooting on his cell phone.
“F--k, this girl just got shot in the f--king head,” Bilzerian says in the first of several videos posted online. “So f--king crazy.”
In later videos, Bilzerian says he’s arming himself and heading back to the scene, but finally says he’s returning home. “I don’t think there’s much I can do,” he says.
A Los Angeles police officer was among the injured, reports the Los Angeles Times. Two Los Angeles Fire Department employees also were hurt, and an Orange County sheriff’s deputy was severely wounded by gunshots to the abdomen and thigh. Wives of two deputies also were hurt.
Bakersfield Police Department had 10 off-duty officers at the concert. One, Aaron Mundhenke, was shot on the hip and taken to a hospital for treatment. He is expected to survive, according to the Bakersfield Californian.
“Our officers were actually attending the concert as civilians,” said Bakersfield police Lt. Jeff Burdick. The department has accounted for all 10 officers, he said. They were at the concert as civilians and not in a position to return fire, he said.
McClatchy staff contributed to this report.