One woman stayed by a stranger’s side hours after he died from gunshot wounds in Sunday night’s horrific shooting at a Las Vegas music festival.
Heather Gooze told CBC Radio she was bartending at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival when gunfire erupted.
“I had a British gentlemen’s credit card in my hand and was like swiping it through the machine to charge for his Budweiser when all of a sudden there was thousands of people pushing their way into the bar and screaming and saying, ‘Shooter!'” Gooze said.
“It sounded like thousands of fireworks going off.”
A gunman had opened fire on the crowd from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
Hoards of people ran for their lives as the gunfire sprayed down on the crowd. Gooze was about to flee herself, she told CBC Radio, but “something inside of me made me stop.”
Wounded festivalgoers suddenly filled the bar area, many of them carried on makeshift stretchers by other attendees. Gooze helped load one man with a head wound into the back of an ambulance.
Then, a group of men brought in a bleeding young man on a piece of security fencing. They left him with Gooze as they went back out in search of more victims.
She took the man’s hand in hers.
“I felt his fingers, like, tighten and then loosen,” she told CBC Radio.
She checked his vitals and realized he was already dead, she said.
The man’s phone started ringing. Gooze answered. It was his friend, who told her the man’s name was Jordan McIldoon, a 23-year-old Canadian from Maple Ridge.
Gooze said she wrote his name on his arm. She then found him on Facebook and messaged his family.
His phone rang again. It was his mother, who told her McIldoon had attended the music festival with his girlfriend.
Gooze took down the girlfriend’s number and called her. She was alive, unharmed and in lockdown at the Tropicana hotel.
Gooze informed McIldoon’s girlfriend he didn’t survive.
“At that point, I promised her that I would absolutely not leave his side, that I would be her contact, that I would make sure she knew where he was going to be moved to, what was going on,” she told CBC Radio.
McIldoon’s mother called his phone again, and Gooze made her the same promise — that she’d remain by his side.
Gooze told CBC Radio she stayed with McIldoon’s body for more than five hours.
“I couldn’t just leave him by himself,” she said. “I don’t know, I just couldn’t leave him.”
Gooze said she continued acting as a liaison to McIldoon’s family until police arrived. At least 59 people were killed and another 527 were injured that night, making the shooting the deadliest in modern U.S. history.
“I would never want myself or one of my family members to be left alone,” Gooze told CBC Radio. “I needed to make sure that they could identify him, that they knew who he was, that they knew he has a girlfriend who was here.”
Gooze still insists she’s “not a hero.”
“People were running into the … line of fire and finding bodies and finding people and trying to save their life,” she said. “I just happened to be in the place where I was able to help.”