Couple caught up in Vegas massacre: ‘I’ll never stop remembering’
Amid carnage that left at least 59 dead and 527 injured on the Las Vegas strip Sunday night, a Storm Lake native escaped with an injury suffered as she and her husband fled the gunman.
Ashley (Hamman) Hoff and husband Shaun were attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival at the Las Vegas Village festival grounds. Shortly after 10 p.m., as country star Jason Aldean was beginning his set, lone gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd of 22,000 from his room on the 32nd floor of the adjacent Mandalay Bay Resort.
At first, the couple and many others at the concert though the shots were exploding fireworks. After about 30 seconds, the crowd realized that they were being targeted with gunshots. In the largely open field, there were few places to hide.
“My wife and I were right in front of the stage when someone started screaming, ‘Everybody down, get down,’ and we just hit the ground,” Hoff related in an interview with People Magazine. “At that point, the music stopped and at the same time, the shooting stopped, but for about a minute. Then, it just kept going and going. The shooting lasted for eight minutes, but it felt like it continued for 30 minutes.”
A woman about 10 feet from them was shot, apparently to death. Shaun and Ashley laid motionless on the ground as people fell around them.
“We were waiting until there was a pause in the gunfire, and we ran,” Hoff told People. “We were just sprinting and then, the shooting started up again, and we dipped into a Porta Potty and hid in there until the shooting stopped again.” While still in hiding, Shaun posted a plea for friends to pray.
They continued to run, ducking behind cars whenever the shooting resumed. There were bodies all around them, but it was impossible to stop to help with the bullets continuing to rain down, they said. At that point, no one knew where the shooting was coming from. The couple thought the shooting was getting closer and closer to them. They continued running for about two miles, reaching the parking lot of Planet Hollywood Resort. Confusion was rampant, and someone there began yelling that there was a shooter at that hotel.
Ashley and Shaun walked on through the area in a daze before wandering into a parking garage, where they met strangers who were about to leave the city driving to California. The couple hitched a ride, then obtained an Uber driver to take them the final hour back to Los Angeles where they reside, arriving safely Monday morning at about 6 a.m. They had left all their belongings at their hotel. “We literally just left with the clothes on our backs,” Shaun said.
“It feels like a bad dream,” he told People. “It’s something I’ll never be able to unsee.”
Shaun had filmed the scene around them on the festival grounds as people huddled on the ground, trying to offer a smaller target to the shooter. Numerous national media outlets aired his video footage in the hours after the most deadly mass shooting incident in U.S. history, surpassing the 50 fatalities of the Pulse nightclub killings in Orlando in 2016. He is licensing his footage in hopes of raising funds that can be donated to victims’ families.
The shooting ended as the gunman was located by SWAT officers, given away as smoke from his weapons set off the fire alarm in his hotel room. They crashed into the room and returned fire, but the killer apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot.
“Feeling a little numb and has not really hit yet… we are safe, but this is unreal,” the Hoffs posted on social media, amid the requests from national media to interview them.
“I’m so overwhelmed on so many levels. I’m writing from a phone that was delivered back to me by sisters (Christine and Jenny) who shared space with us last night. Women who helped cover our heads and bodies as gunfire rained down. I’m writing from Cedars where I am being checked for a broken arm... from falling over someone’s body and looking into the face of someone who no longer looked back,” Ashley wrote in a Facebook message later Monday.
“I’m writing after a couple (Richard and Jackie) who didn’t know us helped us hitchhike back with them to LA along with amazing hotel staff at the Hyatt Ontario (Anna) to our home where we’ve been greeted by more love than we know what to do with,” she added “I’m writing this ALIVE. Sitting next to my spouse who is ALIVE. A different call out than 58 other people who we sang with, stood with, hid with, ran with, and held in our arms. I’ll never forget any of you. I’ll never stop remembering last night. I’m overwhelmed by the love. I’m overwhelmed by the sadness. I’m overwhelmed by my anger. And I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that by the grace of God - THIS is the message I get to write today.”
Ashley also encouraged everyone who has reached out to her to contact their representatives in Congress as well as friends and neighbors to encourage policy action.
Carly Kreibaum, of Sutherland, Iowa, went missing after the gunfire broke out at the music festival. She attended the concert with two other Sutherland woman who escaped uninjured. They believed Kreibaum had been shot, but were unable to locate her at any hospital in the region. A prayer vigil was held for her Monday night as the town of about 600 awaited word, and family members flew to Nevada Tuesday to continue their search.
Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered all flags in Iowa be lowered to half-staff until sunset on Friday, October, 6. While she said the shooting was “deplorable,” the governor felt that now is not the time to talk about gun control initiatives, and said that conversation will come sometime later.
The Storm Lake City Council observed a moment of silence at the beginning of its meeting Monday in memory of the victims.