Surrounded by carnage, one thought became crystal clear to 29-year-old Taylor Winston. He needed a truck, and he needed it now.
Winston, of Ocean Beach, was in the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival when a man opened fire from the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel Resort and Casino on Oct. 1.
At least 59 people were killed, including San Diego attorney Jennifer T. Irvine, and hundreds more were injured.
“People were bleeding everywhere,” Winston said. “Gunshot wounds were everywhere. Legs, torsos, necks, chests, arms — just dozens of people.”
The Marine veteran knew victims needed to get to a hospital right away. He and spotted a nearby parking lot and started running toward it. He knew that festival employees often left keys in work vehicles and he was hopeful. He got lucky.
“The first one we opened had keys inside,” Winston said.
Over the next 40 minutes or so, Winston and a friend would transport between 20 and 30 critically injured people to a hospital in the commandeered truck.
“It was a lot of chaos, but within the chaos there was a lot of good being done and a lot of people rising to the occasion and helping others,” he said.
Just a couple of days removed from the Oct. 1 mass shooting, more stories from survivors, including local residents, are emerging.
Jeffrey Koishor, of San Diego, said it wasn’t until singer Jason Aldean ran off the stage that people realized they weren’t hearing fireworks, but gunshots.
Collective panic set in and people in the crowd around him dropped to the ground. Koishor threw himself over a friend, and, moments later, a piercing pain shot through his leg.
Despite being wounded, Koishor still managed to run to a nearby bar where his leg finally gave out. He was again shielding his friend when he was shot a second time. He said the left side of his body “wasn’t working” so he ran another 50 yards to cover, hopping on one leg.
“I have never ran so fast on one leg in my life,” he wrote on Facebook.
Two strangers helped him get to a hospital, which was absolute chaos, Koishor said.
(ediis0nn | YouTube)
“I was able to get a hold of my mother,” he wrote. “Trying to explain what happened, I just broke down crying so hard. I was so worried and (in) so much pain.”
Doctors told Koishor that one of the bullets had shattered his fibula and the other had fragmented when it hit his hip. Neither the bullet nor the fragments could be removed for fear of damaging surrounding nerve tissue.
A close friend started a GoFundMe account to help support Koishor as he continues to recover.
“Obviously I’m in pain, but I will take the pain tenfold knowing how lucky I am to be alive,” he wrote.
Some other local residents injured in the shooting have been identified, many through social media. They include: Del Mar Deputy Fire Chief Jon Blumeyer, George Sanchez, 54, of San Diego and Zack Mesker of San Marcos.
An unidentified off-duty San Diego firefighter was injured as well. The injury was not life-threatening.
Winston said he and his friends were to the right of the stage when the shooting began. People were getting hit all around them as they ran to a nearby fence. They started throwing people over the other side, eventually climbing over themselves.
— Luke Broadlick (@LukeBroadlick) October 2, 2017
Winston and a friend appropriated the truck soon after.
With gunfire continuing in the background, he and the friend hopped in the truck and started driving around picking up injured people. After driving them away from the shooting, they returned to the concert venue.
Victims were everywhere.
He soon spotted a group of his friends who had set up a makeshift medical area. Strangers were dragging victims there and others were providing emergency first aid.
He pulled up and started loading the most seriously injured into the truck.
“I think the hardest part was seeing so many people who desperately needed help and only being able to take a handful of them at a time,” he said.
It took about ten minutes to get everyone to a hospital. Once the victims were in the hands of medical professionals, Winston looked at his friend and said, “We’re going back for round two.”
Plenty of people still needed to be taken to the hospital when they returned, so they loaded a second group.
“We were looking for the most critically injured,” he said. “It was hard to gauge, but we tried to make decisions as quickly as possible to hopefully save as many people as possible.”
By the time they went back for a third trip, there were several ambulances in the area.
(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police | YouTube)
He said he doesn’t know if all the people he assisted survived. A couple of them were limp and unconscious by the time they got to the hospital. He said he might be reunited with some of the people he transported later this week.
“I just know I’m super fortunate,” he said. “I just wanted to help as much as possible and, in life, nothing gets done by losing your cool.”
Winston decided to stay in Las Vegas for a little while longer, to continue to try and help.
“I could have easily gone back to San Diego in my safe little area with everyone I know and forget this all happened, but I’d rather be here and help out the best I can and not run from it,” he said.
As for the truck he commandeered, he parked it sometime later and it ended up being towed. Winston and the owner were connected via social media, and they got together Oct. 2 so Taylor could return the keys.
He said they had a heart-to-heart, and the owner didn’t mind “at all” that Winston had borrowed the truck.