Valley residents returned from the deadly Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest festival Monday to the outstretched arms of friends and family waiting for them at Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
Nonstop, rapid gunfire broke out Sunday night from the Mandalay Bay Hotel during country singer Jason Aldean’s outdoor show, killing at least 59 people and injuring more than 515. Thousands of concertgoers fled for their lives as SWAT teams stormed the gunman’s hotel room. Officers found 64-year-old Craig Stephen Paddock had killed himself in his hotel room.
Crystal Alaniz, a 32-year-old woman who lives in Fresno, was on an Allegiant Air flight Monday morning from Las Vegas, and tearfully met her family at the airport just after 11 a.m. She told her account of the terrifying night:
Alaniz attended the country music festival for the first time with seven girlfriends. “It was just supposed to be a girls trip to have fun,” she said. “My friends go there every year, so I thought I would join them this year.”
The group was at the Jason Aldean concert when Alaniz went to the restroom, a decision she believes helped her survive. When she came out, she heard the gunfire. It was so loud, she thought the gunman was right behind her.
I just saw everybody being shot and falling to the floor, and I didn’t know what to do.
Concertgoer Crystal Alaniz of Fresno
“I just saw everybody being shot and falling to the floor, and I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I crawled under a trailer and under the bleachers and I was stuck under there. I just kept praying and hoping I was going to get out of there alive.”
Alaniz watched bullets ricochet from the ground and spark as concertgoers crouched over victims trying to help. She told her friends to run, and the group split up. As she ran, she saw people getting hit by cars motoring down a street, while others were laying on the edge of the road. There was blood everywhere, she said.
“I wanted to give up. I was running and jumping fences,” she said. “This guy grabbed my hand, and (he said), ‘You have to keep running, just keep running.’ He grabbed my hand tight, and we just kept running all the way to the Monte Carlo (Resort and Casino). I didn’t know this man.”
Alaniz stayed with strangers in the Monte Carlo on Sunday night and went straight to the airport early Monday.
She said she was anxious on the plane ride to Fresno and thought about reuniting with her family, especially her 11-year-old daughter.
“I’m very saddened for the families who don’t get to come home to their loved ones,” she said, choking back tears.
‘We’re running, we’re hiding’
Clovis resident Susan Lehr attended the festival Friday and Saturday night but came home early to go to work Monday. She waited for her “besties” to arrive on their Allegiant flight after receiving horrifying text messages from them the night before.
“They texted me, ‘We’re running, we’re hiding,’” Lehr said. “They were running for their lives.”
Luckily, her friends survived without injuries.
When the plane arrived just after 11 a.m., she received her sobbing friends with open arms, enveloping them in a bear hug as they ran to her. The group of about six people remained tightly embraced, wiping away tears and making their way past a group of news crews.
Allegiant, which is based in Las Vegas, tweeted out a message of support to anyone affected by the shooting, saying the airline would do what it could to help. The airline said it will offer free flights to or from Las Vegas for family members of victims who were injured or killed in the shooting. Family member can contact the airline by emailing email@example.com to discuss arrangements.
Allegiant also will allow customers who planned to travel to or from Las Vegas this week to change their travel plans with no additional fees.