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September 22, 2018

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Singers describe ‘war zone’ at music festival shooting


AP Photo/John Locher

Police run to cover at the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip.

Two country singers on the bill at the Route 91 Harvest Festival have described a scene of terror that felt like a "war zone" as a shooter in a Las Vegas hotel rained gunfire down on thousands of music fans.

Police said at least 58 people died and at least 515 people were injured during the shooting Sunday. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Country singer Tyler Reeve says he was backstage when a volley of shots rang out Sunday night during a performance by Jason Aldean. He and other singers took cover in a trailer while bullets struck tour buses, equipment cases and the stage.

SWAT teams using explosives stormed the gunman's hotel room in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino and found he had killed himself, authorities said. The attacker, Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old retiree from Mesquite, Nevada, had as many as 10 guns with him, including rifles, they said.

"I don't think many people realized right away what it was, but right when I heard it, I grabbed my buddy that was next to me and started running toward a production trailer," Reeve told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday from Las Vegas.

Reeve and others lay down on the trailer floor and turned all the lights off.

"As we were lying in this trailer, I was thinking, 'This can't really be happening,' and it just went on and on. I can't even describe the feeling, just absolute terror," Reeve said.

After about 45 minutes, Reeve and his friends left the trailer and ran through the streets to the MGM Grand Casino.

"It was just shoes and clothing and blood and bodies," Reeve said. "It was a war zone."

Dylan Schneider, another singer who also performed Sunday, says he was watching Aldean's performance near the front of the stage when he heard what he initially thought were fireworks. But as the shooting continued he and his manager started ran for cover under nearby bleachers.

"On top of the bleachers all you heard was banging," Schneider said in a phone interview Monday from Las Vegas. "People running around and everybody screaming."

He said the crowd scattered in all directions, unsure of where the gunfire was coming from.

"No one knew what to do," he said. "It was literally running for your life and you don't know what decision is the right one."

From under the bleachers, he said he could see people lying on the grass. Schneider said he and his manager ran to the Tropicana Hotel and Casino where they spent several hours in a convention room with hundreds of other people.

"I just feel so terrible that this had to happen at something that was supposed to be a good time," Schneider said. "I am thinking of all the families. I know what it's like to wonder where that person is, or wonder what is going on, cause we were doing that ourselves."

Josh Abbott, the lead singer of the Josh Abbott Band, had also performed that day and went back his hotel room in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, a few floors below where police found the attacker dead.

"I had just left and was in the Mandalay Bay on the 20th floor with my fiancée during the shooting just a few floors away," Abbott said in a statement. "The band & crew were on the concert grounds and saw people get shot. Some of my crew members were hit with shrapnel, but not injured. We are deeply disturbed by this horrific act of violence and send our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. It was a long awful night but we are blessed to be alive and healthy. Hug your loved ones tight."

Reeve said he doesn't want this shooting to stop other musicians from performing or fans to stop going to concerts.

"I know the music community will survive and we all love each other and we're strong," Reeve said. "We're going to do whatever we can to get through it together."

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