WHEN a gunman rained a sudden and rapid-fire barrage on a Las Vegas country music festival, killing at least 59 people and wounding 520 more, it didn’t take long for Newcastle businessman Trent Bagnall to see “the sheer terror on everyone’s faces” as they scrambled to save their lives.
“You could eventually tell on people’s faces something was going on. There was a man with an automatic weapon.”
Mr Bagnall, the chairman of Lake Macquarie economic development company Dantia and Slingshot founder, was drinking beer at the Planet Hollywood casino with mates, where he was staying, about one and a half kilometres from Mandalay Bay Resort, the scene of the massacre.
The bar was evacuated, he said, and about 500 people in the vicinity were huddled into a basement, where news of an “active shooting” trickled in via TV screens.
“It was intense,” he said. “People were screaming ‘there’s a shooter’, and it was just so panicked.”
Speaking to the Herald about 5pm local time on Tuesday, Mr Bagnall said the US casino city – renowned for its fun – was a ghost town.
“It’s sombre,” he said. “There’s no one in the casinos, people are grieving. Vegas usually pumps 24/7. This is surreal.”
According to the Las Vegas Police Department, the death toll rose to 59 people on Tuesday, with 527 injured.
At least 18 firearms were found in shooter Stephen Paddock’s hotel room. Among the weapons were an AR-15-style assault rifle.
Paddock was found dead in his room after it was stormed by SWAT officers, according to US media.
The businessman paid tribute to emergency services and casino staff for their bravery.
“Despite all that’s gone on, and the trauma they’re feeling, I think people are very proud of their emergency services,” he said.
America’s gun laws were not top of mind in the immediate aftermath, he sensed.
“I think people are really just focused on the victims,” he said.
It is said “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. For Mr Bagnall, this memory will linger forever.
“What happened, it is an absolute tragedy,” he said. “So many people, who were just enjoying the music, lost their lives.”