Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Public safety

Las Vegas survivor stories: Man saves wife's life 'and lost his'

The victims of a mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas left behind loved ones in many parts of the country and world, extending the tragedy's effects far beyond the city where it occurred.

Details began to emerge Monday about some of the 59 killed and hundreds more injured after a gunman opened fire on festivalgoers.

Sonny Melton, a registered nurse, died in the shooting, according to The Henry County Medical Center in Paris, Tennessee, where he worked.

His wife, Dr. Heather Melton, an orthopedic surgeon who was with him when shots were fired, survived, the medical center said.

Heather Melton told WZTV in Nashville, Tennessee that her husband "saved my life and lost his." She says her husband was the most kind-hearted, loving man she ever met.

Friend Jeremy Butler told the Paris (Tennessee) Post-Intelligencer that Melton was shielding Heather Melton from gunfire when he was fatally shot.

RELATED: What we know so far about Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock

Commercial fisherman Adrian Murfitt, 35, of Anchorage, Alaska, was also among the slain, a family member said Monday.

His sister, Shannon Gothard, said the family heard from one of Murfitt's friends who was with him when he died though they haven't received official confirmation about his death.

Asked if the family was holding out hope that he made it after all, she said, "No. No."

Gothard described her brother as a man with a big hearty laugh, a former competitive hockey player who still dabbled in the game.

"His whole life was always around hockey," she said.

After graduating from high school, he became a fisherman, picking up odd jobs in the offseason.

He had just come off an extremely successful fishing season when he made the trip to Las Vegas with some good friends, Gothard said.

Her brother "was happy to pay some things off and had made some really good money and decided to go out and celebrate and go to the concert and treat himself to something nice and fun," she said.

THE LATEST: Details on the Las Vegas shooting, deadliest in U.S. history

Canadian mechanic's apprentice Jordan McIldoon, 23, of British Columbia was killed, according to CBC News.

"We only had one child," Al and Angela McIldoon, told the CBC. "We just don't know what to do."

Sandy Casey, a middle school special education teacher from Manhattan Beach, California, was another of those killed in Sunday night's attack, the school district said.

"This is unbelievably tragic and sad," Mike Matthews, superintendent of the Manhattan Beach School District, wrote in a Monday morning letter to the district. "This loss is impacting many of our staff members deeply."

Casey is a 2004 alumna of the College of St. Joseph in Rutland, Vermont, according to a Facebook post in the college's alumni page.

PHOTOS: Scenes of confusion and chaos in Las Vegas

Also among those lost:

- Lisa Romero, of Gallup, New Mexico. She was a discipline secretary at Miyamura High School, relatives confirmed.

Paul Romero, 57, had not seen his cousin Lisa Romero in a couple years, but they grew up together.

"She was a very down-to-earth person, she was a very sweet person," he said. "As far as I know she never had an enemy in the world."

Louise Leslie's 14-year-old great-granddaughter went to the school where Romero worked. She found out in class today that the discipline secretary was dead.

"The last time she saw her was Friday after school and she gave her a hug," Leslie said. "She was always telling my granddaughter to stay out of trouble and get somewhere and do the right thing - she was a good friend of hers."

In school Monday, her great-granddaughter told her, "everyone was crying."

- Rachael Parker, a police records technician.

Parker was shot and ultimately died in the hospital, the Manhattan Beach Police Department said.

Parker was among four department employees who were attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival while off-duty. Another suffered minor injuries.

"She was employed with the Manhattan Beach Police Department for 10 years and will be greatly missed," the department said in a statement.

- Jessica Klymchuk, a 28-year-old Albertan.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said Tuesday Klymchuk also was among those who died. Notley expressed sympathy for the loss.

Klymchuk worked as an educational assistant, librarian and bus driver at St. Stephen's School in Valleyview.

In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the "senseless and cowardly act of violence."

- Sandy Casey, 35, of Redondo Beach, California. In early April, on the last day of their 10-day vacation in New Zealand, Christopher Willemse and his girlfriend, Sandy Casey, walked down a steep hill to a lake. As she played by the water's edge, Willemse took a ring out of his pocket. When she turned around he was down on one knee.

At the end of this month, they planned to tour the final wedding venue on their list.

Instead, after seven years as colleagues at Manhattan Beach Middle School, three years as a couple and five months engaged, Willemse held Casey on Sunday night as she died from a fatal gunshot to her lower back at a country music festival in Las Vegas.

Willemse, 32, worked as a behavioral therapist in Casey's special education classes. They bonded over their love of country music.

They were attending the festival with a few of Willemse's friends, huddled up in front of the stage, when the gunshots rang out. They all dropped to the ground, but Casey said she'd been hit and couldn't feel her legs. Willemse stuck his finger in the hole to stop the bleeding, and then carried her out, dodging the continuous gunfire.

When she stopped responding, he told her that he loved her and that she was amazing.

"She was just a kind soul and she was full of life and loved to live it," Willemse said. "She made everybody smile, she was an excellent teacher and loved the kids she taught. Everyone who meets her never forgets her."

On Facebook early Monday morning, Willemse wrote: "As I sit and mourn such a beautiful life gone too fast, all i can say is look up and watch the birds fly high and free today as that's where I feel you smiling down upon all of us. I love you baby girl! Love you to pieces!"


• • •


Gail Davis, talking to CBS This Morning, recalled a police officer shielding her from the gunfire when she was unable to take cover.

On Good Morning America, Bryan Claypool said he believed the gunfire to be fireworks at first. Breaking down in tears, he recalled thinking of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando while sheltering in place. "I'm thinking, am I gonna die in this room?" he said.

LIST: The deadliest shootings in U.S. history, after Las Vegas

Megan Kearney told NBC News that she saw "people just dropping, hundreds of bodies all over the ground" as Paddock opened fire. "It sounded like it was coming from the sky, up above," she said of the gunfire. "People just kept dropping and dropping, all over the concert, so it was someone that was above and able to kind of, you know, get a full range."

Among the injured were two off-duty personnel from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, the agency confirmed. Both were transported to a local hospital after being hit by gunfire.

One remains in critical condition and the other is in stable condition, the department said in a statement. No names or details on their positions at the department were being released at this time.

Real estate agent and father of three older children Rob McIntosh, 52, of North Pole, Alaska, was near the front of the stage with friends when the shooting began, according to friend and real estate broker Mike Vansickle. He was hit repeatedly but survived, Vansickle said.

"From just getting off the phone with the family he took three bullets to his body," said Vansickle. "He just came out of surgery, and he's going to make it."

In a personal note on his real estate website, McIntosh describes himself as enjoying the outdoors in Alaska, where he also operates a business called Santa's Fireworks.

"Whether I'm fishing, snow machining, hunting, steel welding or building my own home or cabin; I stay active all year round," McIntosh wrote.

Vansickle described McIntosh as being strong.

"He's been though lots of adversity," said Vansickle. "He'll get through all this and come out with some stories to tell."

Kristin Babik, a law student at the University of Florida in Las Vegas for an internship at the Clark County district attorney's office, suffered broken ribs and a collapsed lung in the shooting, the school said.

"Kristin is on bed rest for now," an email from the law school's dean said. "We look forward to welcoming her back to Gainesville as soon as she recovers."


Information from the Washington Post and Associated Press was used to compile this report.


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