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Close call with mass shooting
Mikey McBryan and girlfriend 'counting blessings' after avoiding incident that left 59 dead and nearly 600 injured

Sidney Cohen
Northern News Services
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

On Sunday, Mikey McBryan and a group of his friends from Hay River lounged poolside at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino before eating dinner at the hotel's Irish Pub.

NNSL photograph

: Buffalo Airways general manager Mikey Mcbryan and his girlfriend, Stella Heidorn, were finishing dinner at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino when a gunman opened fire on a country-music festival that night. - photo courtesy of Mikey McBryan

The next morning, the luxury resort on the Las Vegas Strip was making international headlines for its connection to one of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Shortly after 10 p.m. Sunday, a gunman opened fire on an outdoor country music concert, allegedly from a room on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay hotel. As of press time, at least 59 were dead and more than 500 people were injured in the attack, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Suspect Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old from Mesquite, Nev., allegedly shot and killed himself following the attack, according to CNN.

Though McBryan was just storeys below the attack, he didn't hear gunshots until he saw the news on TV later that night.

"This is the biggest mass shooting in American history and a bunch of guys from Hay River were standing underneath that window," said the Buffalo Airways general manager and former star of the reality series Ice Pilots NWT on Monday.

"It's just mind-boggling."

McBryan and his girlfriend, Stella Heidorn, realized something was wrong when they walked out Mandalay Bay's main doors after dinner Sunday night. Police officers, guns drawn, were running by shouting, "Get back, get back, there's a shooter."

Thinking the shooting was inside the casino, the pair ran into the street and followed a crowd to a nearby gas station.

"There were waves of screaming," said McBryan, describing the scene outside. "Then the concert goers started showing up and they were talking about seeing people with blood ... It was surreal."

McBryan and his girlfriend hid behind a large electrical box and phoned their parents.

The street flooded with people who had fled the Route 91 Harvest country music festival and others who had run from casinos lining the strip.

"I was really thinking where can we hide, where is safe?" said McBryan.

"There's always safety in numbers. I didn't want to isolate myself."

Although it felt like they were hiding for a long time, said McBryan, they were likely behind the transformer unit for less than 10 minutes.

"My girlfriend's instinct was to keep walking," said McBryan, which they did, for more than a mile. Finally the couple reached a street that wasn't closed to traffic. A kind stranger gave them a ride back to their hotel, the Downtown Grand, about 10 kilometres from Mandalay Bay.

Talking to people who were coming from the festival, McBryan learned the gunfire was aimed at audience members and not at guests inside Mandalay Bay.

"That was probably the biggest relief," he said, noting that each of the 16 people in his party was inside or leaving the resort at the time of the shooting. McBryan's sister was in her room at Mandalay Bay during the ordeal and it took him a half hour to make contact with her.

"My nieces wanted to go to that concert," said McBryan, recalling the experience Monday morning.

"Luckily it was sold out."

It wasn't until close to midnight, when the pair was back at their hotel room, that the reality of what just happened sunk in.

"We thought it was some minor thing," said McBryan. "We didn't realize it was as big as the craziness it turned out to be."

Everyone in McBryan's group is safe, but as of Monday morning, two Canadians are reportedly among the dead.

The city notorious for bacchanalian revelry was uncharacteristically sombre on Monday. One of McBryan's friends described the American gambling hub as a "ghost town."

McBryan said he and his girlfriend had planned to spend their last day in the city shopping. Instead, he said, "we'll be just hanging out and counting our blessings."

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