Police say 64-year-old former accountant Stephen Paddock smashed windows from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino to fire automatic weapons at thousands of people attending country musician Jason Aldean’s set during the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival.
It is the deadliest shooting in the modern history of the US with at least 59 dead and more than 500 injured.
But it was not until the music stopped that concertgoer Cailin Anning – an Australian working as a digital marketer at Tao Nightclub just down the road – realised she and her friend were in danger.
Ms Anning – who has been living in Henderson, Las Vegas, for three months – recalls how she and friend Sarah had left the VIP section for the toilets when they heard a “cracking noise” which at first she believed was special effects.
“Then all of a sudden the music stopped and we sort of looked at each other and then all we heard was screaming,” Ms Anning told SBS World News.
“I thought, ‘oh my goodness… this gunman’s on foot and potentially coming toward us’. So I said to Sarah, ‘we can’t hide here, there’s no way these things [demountable toilet buildings] will protect us.”
Ms Anning said they climbed on top of a septic tank behind the toilets and she helped Sarah jump a 10-foot fence. The Australian jumped after her and realised her car was nearby.
“I was just yelling at her, ‘run to the car, run to the car’,” Ms Anning said.
“Bullets were ricocheting off the asphalt and we ran as fast as we could.
“I don’t really know how I felt in that moment, I don’t think I was panicked, I just knew we needed to get out of there and fast, fast as possible.”
Ms Anning spotted her car and they jumped another fence to reach it and got in.
“A girl was banging on window begging to get in, so I let her in and then I just started to drive and I was on my horn the whole time because everybody was just screaming and running in all kinds of directions,” she said.
Ms Anning recalls some people looked drunk and as if they did not know what was going on while others were jumping on her car.
“People wanted to get in, people were punching the windows. What do you do, do you let 12 people pile in your car? Does that cause an accident? I don’t know,” she said.
Ms Anning said she saw people directing others to safety but others pushing people out of the way.
When she and Sarah arrived home at about 10:30pm, she looked at her text messages to judge they had escaped the venue in five minutes.
“I still haven’t wrapped my head around that yet,” she said.
Ms Anning said she felt “extremely lucky” that she was standing.
While she says she was at the “wrong” venue, she acknowledges she was in the “right place at the right time”.
“America has so many great things about it and so many things that don’t make sense,” Ms Anning said.
The mass shooting has prompted renewed calls to tighten gun control in the US.
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy said in a statement on Monday local time: “The thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference.
“Nowhere but America do horrific large-scale mass shootings happen with this degree of regularity.”
The senator became an advocate of tighter gun control after Adam Lanza shot dead 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012.
Former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, pushed Congress on gun control in front of Capitol Hill.
Mr Kelly said, “Does anyone actually believe our gun laws are too strong? Give me a break.”
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution states: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
In the wake of the shooting, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the country could help the US reform its arms legislation.
“What we can offer is our experience,” Ms Bishop said. “Under John Howard, we implemented the national firearms agreement — this prohibited semiautomatic and automatic weapons. We had that national gun buyback scheme.
“We can share our experience.”
Australia has not seen a mass shooting since this legislation was enforced.
Caitlin says, “Every experience I have had living in the country has made me appreciate Australia that much more.”