Calgary

One Calgarian's harrowing tale of heroism, injury and survival in Vegas

'At first, I didn't think I was gonna make it,' says Steve Arruda, shot after staying to lift others to safety

Tricia Lo - CBC News

October 04, 2017

Steve Arruda and his wife, Elaine, were attending the Route 91 music festival in Las Vegas when gunfire erupted on the grounds. (Steve Arruda)

With bullets hailing down around them, Steve Arruda and his wife, Elaine, had two escape options: either run toward the gunfire or join the stampede of people fleeing toward the Las Vegas stage and the two fences that separated them from safer ground.

All around them, people were getting trampled, Arruda told CBC's The Calgary Eyeopener.

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The Calgary man was standing roughly 12 metres from the main stage at the Route 91 music festival on Sunday when Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock began to unleash round after round of gunfire. Paddock killed 58 people, including four Canadians, and injured more than 500 others.

Arruda and his wife dashed toward the pair of fences, where he hoisted her over.

Festival-goers duck and run as gunfire erupts at the Route 91 music festival in Las Vegas Sunday night.

'Just run'

The gunfire seemed to have stopped, and as Arruda paused to look behind him, he saw what he described as dozens of people, pinned against the fence as a throng of concert-goers scrambled to scale it.

"This one woman's face was just pure terror. She's like, 'You have to help me. You have to help me,'" Arruda recounted.

He turned to his wife. "Just go. Just run," he told her, as he planted his feet. 

Arruda stayed by the fences and began grabbing people underneath their armpits, hoisting several of them over the fence, one at a time. Then the unmistakable sound of gunfire cut through the air again.

"It just started even worse. It was a continuous flow of gunshots, and I'm like, "I gotta get outta here, because this is a life-or-death situation right now."

As he was sprinting across the field, he suddenly felt what he described as an "incredible pain and numbness" in his foot. 

"Every time I took a step, my ankle would just bend like it was dead."

A 'sitting duck'

Unable to run, he fell to the ground and crawled his way toward the stage risers, where he says roughly 40 other people were huddled, protecting themselves.

But Arruda thought the active shooter was on the premises, and he believed he would be killed if he didn't keep moving.

"I was like a sitting duck," Arruda remembers thinking.

He had no way of knowing that the gunman, Paddock, was shooting from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort, blocks away.

This map shows the the shooter's location relative to the the Route 91 Harvest music festival grounds. (CBC)

Arruda spotted a wheelbarrow nearby and attempted to prop himself up against it to make his escape. But the handles were too low, and he couldn't balance. He then turned to a plastic recycling bin, hoping to use it as a crutch to relieve the pressure on his bleeding leg. He fell again.

Roughly six metres from where he lay stood a police officer with his gun drawn. The officer yelled to Arruda: "You have to get to the medic tent! The medic tent!" 

The officer pointed to a structure roughly 100 metres away.

"At first, I didn't think I was gonna make it because I was hit. Just to get to the medic tent, we had to cross probably the most open area of the festival grounds," Arruda explained.

"I ended up hobbling over there on one foot, essentially falling into the medic tent."

'Glad to be home'

Inside, Arruda saw roughly 20 other gunshot victims, some of whom were already dead. 

A man in plain clothes, clearly not a festival medic, approached Arruda to find out where he'd been hurt. Arruda gestured to his leg.

"Then he ripped half my shorts off ... and he turned it into a tourniquet and basically wrapped it and told me to keep pressure on it.

"This was a guy who was just in plain clothes, trying to help anybody that he could," Arruda said. 

On Tuesday night, Arruda was evacuated from Las Vegas and airlifted to Calgary.

The bullet struck Arruda in the back side of his leg and left fragments in the upper portion, which are causing some swelling and disrupting a nerve, causing numbness in his foot. But Arruda isn't complaining.

"My foot's numb, but hey, I'm glad to be home. That's for sure."


With files from The Calgary Eyeopener

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