First person account: The Route 91 Concert and mass shooting
By Dawn Aerts
Iron County Today
It was supposed to be an “all girls” fun weekend as Randie Lipsky, Stephanie Furnival and Keeley Ball of Cedar City, and up to 25 others, gathered to enjoy the huge open-air Route 91 music festival, and to spend time with out-of-town friends and daughters.
What Lipsky and some of her friends faced was a barrage of bullets at a popular event that will never be fully forgotten. “Some of us knew each other from living in Nevada (years before). Others arrived from Cedar City, Panguitch and near Las Vegas,” said Lipsky of the Festival that came to be their much-anticipated get-together. “So I wasn’t about to miss this year. I was set on going no matter what.”
Another Cedar City friend, Keely Ball, had carefully coordinated the late early autumn event — handing out their matching t-shirts while juggling all the little details during their stay at local hotels.
But on that Sunday night, all their well-thought out plans, the happy photographs and girlfriend celebration came to a sudden and mostly tragic finale.
Lipsky said there was plenty of security measures in place, bags were checked at the main entries with hundreds of uniformed officers on duty. Concert-goers had many choices as to where they wanted to view the long list of big-name musicians and singers for the featured performance. But there was potential danger – lingering in the open.
“That night, lots of people wanted to get close to the Main stage, but there were other good locations too – from the chair corral (near the back) where people could set up their own chairs; a handicap section, and water-station; and a more comfortable VIP seating area (with VIP Suites) that overlooked from above,” she said.
There were also a huge number of vendors (booths with everything from western belts and buckles, to food trucks with open grills). “As the evening went on, I have to say that most of us were together having a good time – six of us decided to set up their chairs in the corral,” said Lipsky. “A few moved closer to the Main Stage; and three (of our friends) decided to leave and drive home early.”
What Lipsky did notice is that fairways were crowded and cramped as dozens of vendors, event-goers and groups were moving in and through in every direction without much thought to exit plans. “Looking back (at pictures), we heard that first, ‘pop, pop, pop,’ noise so then I’m thinking, ‘Now how did someone get those fireworks into this event?’”
It was in those moments her daughter (Randa) had already left to fill up a water-bottle at the nearby station. “So it was Lori, Della and (myself) who sat down to watch the show from the chair corral,” Lipsky said. “Then we heard the rapid shots fire (begin)–with many of those bullets just bouncing off the pavement. “
Lipsky recalls the moments when people just stood up, shocked.
“I remember many people were shouting and screaming ‘Get Down!’ as bullets hit the ground then ricocheted in all directions. But we couldn’t just lay there, so we moved, and fell, and so did 300 to 400 other people all pushing or shoving their way through the booths and around the nearby food stands.”
As police began to shout and shove people in and through escape openings, Lipsky recalls injured and heroes moving wheelchairs through. It was she and Della Rowley, who rushed through one opening, onto a back street, (over a barrier) and through to an exit where they could see the outline of the (Tropicana) Casino. She remembers the cooks and casino staff hiding in their kitchens. As the shooting echoed through streets, Lipsky found herself with a taxi-driver who had no clue on what had just happened.
“The casino we had escaped into was desolate. All I could really see is the loading of people into vehicles, and in one of those tunnels, we started to reach our friends who were scattered from one end of the place to another.”
One in their group fled to the MGM; four had managed to escape with her daughter – who scrambled over a fence and later, onto a tarmac at the adjacent VIP airport. Two others found themselves outside a coffee shop, (across from Mandalay Bay), where they stayed under tables for hours…as a lock-down ensued.
“At one point, I had wanted to hide behind garbage cans; but we still heard the echo of bullets. So we had to keep moving.” Lipsky explains that those who were shouting “get down” at the onset of the attack had likely miscalculated. There was no cover and there was no way to protect someone who remained in the open-air venue.
While Lipsky is both thankful and relieved that her friends somehow escaped the barrage of bullets, but she is reluctant to put blame on anything (politics, race or gun movement) other than the actions of a crazed shooter.
“I don’t think anything would change what he orchestrated or did that awful night – It was senseless, pure hatred. I can only say it was the scariest moment of my life.”
Caption: Cedar City residents Randie Lipsky, daughter Randa Garvey, Keely Ball, and Stephanie Furnival were among 25 or more friends that attended the annual Route 91 Harvest Concert in Las Vegas on Oct. 1.