Two Canadians were among dozens of people killed in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire on a crowd of thousands gathered at an outdoor country music festival Sunday night.
A woman from Alberta and a man from British Columbia were among the nearly 60 dead after the horrific attack that also left more than 500 others injured.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson both expressed sympathy over the death of Jessica Klymchuk, a mother of four from Valleyview, Alta, north of Edmonton. She was in Vegas with her fiance.
“Our hearts are all broken,” Iveson said in a tweet. “We will rally for Jessica’s children and family.”
A family member, who did not want his name used, identified Jordan McIldoon, 23, of Maple Ridge, B.C., as also being among the dead in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
“It’s a terrible thing,” he said. “I don’t handle it very well.”
McIldoon would have turned 24 on Friday and was a month shy of completing a course to qualify as a heavy-duty mechanic. His parents were travelling to Nevada to retrieve his body, the relative said.
In a Facebook posting that could not immediately be verified, Heather Gooze of Las Vegas said she was outside the festival grounds when the Canadian passed away.
“I am with a young man who died in my arms! RIP Jordan McIldoon from British Columbia,” Gooze wrote. “I can’t believe this just happened!!!”
Those who were at the outdoor festival when the shooting occurred said it was only when the performer on stage dropped his microphone and ran that the true horror of what was unfolding dawned on the crowd.
Their first thoughts as the sound of automatic gunfire resounded through the area turned to fireworks, many said.
“We heard the shots get fired, we saw the smoke,” Ashley Fowler, who was with friends, told the K-Rock radio station in St. John’s, N.L. “Everyone thought it was fireworks at the show until Jason Aldean dropped his mic and ran from the stage, so everyone started to run.”
As the panic- and fear-stricken crowd of more than 22,000 at the Route 91 Harvest Festival scrambled for their lives, some found themselves running into a wall of people, or an electric fence around the airport. A local with a truck attached a rope to the fence and pulled it down, allowing access to a runway, Fowler said.
“We’re all standing on the runway and they literally have to divert any planes landing in Las Vegas to Arizona because we’re all standing on the runway running from the shooters,” said Fowler, who got separated from her friends in the panic. “I’m in so much shock.”
Police said a man opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel across from the concert and identified him as Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev., less than two hours from Las Vegas. SWAT teams using explosives stormed his hotel room and found he had killed himself, authorities said. He had as many as 10 guns with him, including rifles, they said.
Jody Ansell, of Stonewall, Man., was among the injured. She said in a Facebook message from her hospital bed that she was recovering.
“I was shot in the right arm and the medical staff are taking care of me,” Ansell said.
Mikey McBryan, of Hay River, N.W.T., and his girlfriend were just leaving the casino at Mandalay Bay when officers with guns drawn began yelling at them to get out because there were shooters in the building. McBryan said they ran across the road to take shelter behind a large electrical transformer outside a gas station.
“It now seems like a foolish idea but we didn’t know what was going on,” McBryan said in an interview. “Everyone was kind of in a daze.”
McBryan said he didn’t hear any gunfire, but remembers waves of screaming as hundreds of people from the concert began descending on the area and police set up roadblocks.
Other Canadians attending the concert or at the hotel who were not hurt included Victoria’s chief of police Del Manak and his family, and the leader of the Opposition Yukon party, Stacey Hassard.
Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to a request for any details on the number of Canadians affected by the shooting in the city known for its glitz and gambling.
In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government was following up on reports of Canadian casualties and denounced the “senseless and cowardly act of violence.
“Our hearts break for our American friends and neighbours today,” Trudeau said.
Las Vegas is a popular tourist destination for Canadians. Visitors from Canada made up nearly half of international tourists who arrived in the city by air last year, according to the Las Vegas Visitor Authority. Residents of Toronto and Vancouver and Calgary account for about one third of all visitors arriving by air.
— with files from the Associated Press.
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press