SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Two Sarasota women were near the stage in the Las Vegas strip when the bullets rained down. They ran for their lives, not knowing whether they’d survive.
On Sunday night, Sarasota residents Cindy Wilds and Natalie Vandivier were in the VIP section at the Jason Aldean concert.
The two have been friends for 31 years and make a yearly trip to Las Vegas, this time for the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
They were enjoying the headliner when suddenly, the music was interrupted.
“All of a sudden, we heard what we thought was firecrackers. Everybody started getting down on the ground, and then Jason Aldean stopped, and everything went black and that’s when we realized that it was gunfire and that we were in danger,” said Wilds.
“We grabbed each other’s hand and held on to each other, knowing we weren’t going to let each other go and we made a run for it,” she described.
There was mass confusion.
“Even when we were running, everybody was saying, ‘Slow down! Slow down, it’s just firecrackers!’” said Vandivier.
“We didn’t know where the gunfire was coming from, because it was echoing off everything,” said Wilds.
The scene quickly became horrific.
“We saw one girl that was flat on her back. We don’t know if she was shot or trampled, it was unbelievable,” said Wilds.
The gunshots were infrequent and every time they heard them, they ducked for cover.
“Everybody was pushing and trampling. It was just awful, the worst night of my life,” recalled Wilds.
They tried to run to the nearby Tropicana Hotel and were shocked at the response.
“[A staff member] asked us, ‘Do you have a room key?’ and we said ‘No,’ and he says, ‘Well you need to go out to the street,’ and I’m like ‘What?” said Wilds.
“I couldn’t believe the Tropicana shooed us out of there,” she added.
Out on the strip, the two women tried to duck for cover.
“Nobody knew where to go. Nobody knew where it was coming from,” said Wilds.
Suddenly, a group of men tried to protect them and act as a human shield
“There were three guys there and they were saying, ‘Get behind us! Guys, get in front of the girls, we’re going to block this,’” Wilds described.
The women made it safely to The Mirage where they were staying and said it was startling. In the casino, there were no dealers, no pit bosses, no patrons.
“There was nobody sitting at any slot machine, it was so eerily weird,” said Vandivier.
The two are counting their blessings and are thankful to be alive.
“We were in shock last night and reality set in this morning and we got up this morning, and I think we both got maybe two hours of sleep and we kinda hugged each other and started crying, realizing how close we came to dying,” said Wilds.
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