Falls man recounts Vegas horror
Andrew Cserpes was visiting Las Vegas to celebrate his birthday and play some golf.
It’s something the Niagara Falls resident and his friends do every year.
But this time it turned out to be anything but a normal vacation, as the group witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Cserpes, who was visiting the popular tourist city for five nights and six days, said he and one friend decided to walk out onto the strip, and towards the country-music concert, after attending a Vegas Golden Knights pre-season hockey game on Sunday night.
“We didn’t have tickets to go in, but there was a lot of people there, so we just moved our way towards it, and then all of a sudden we started hearing noises,” said Cserpes, adding he was outside the fenced-in area for the concert.
“We thought it was coming from inside, and then we noticed it was coming from a different direction, from the Mandalay Bay, and we didn’t know what it was.”
Cserpes said he started to hear people screaming, and one person speculated somebody had a machine gun.
“Then the sounds just stopped, and then a few seconds later they started up again. We just started hearing all kinds of noises around us. We didn’t know if it was bullets hitting the fence or not. It was just a lot of popping. We thought that it was perhaps some of the pyrotechnics from the concert. It wasn’t until people started screaming, and somebody said machine gun, then all of a sudden it registered that it did sound like a machine gun.”
Cserpes said people started jumping over the fence where they were standing.
“We didn’t know if it was somebody inside that was shooting, so we started to sort of move away from the fence. We noticed that there was something going on towards the Mandalay Bay, and we just started to run away. All the police started coming. We sort of stopped on the side to watch, but then police were like, ‘get out of here, get out of here.’”
Cserpes said he was with a friend from Wasaga Beach, while his other friend, who is from St. Catharines, was inside the Mandalay Bay watching a Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil show.
Cserpes said he and his friend were starting to run towards their hotel, which was down the strip, when some people said there may be another shooter in another hotel, “which made us freak out more because we were going right past it.”
“We didn’t know what to do, if we should stay in another building or not. We made our way slowly back to our hotel.”
Cserpes said he and his friend made it back to their hotel before it was locked down.
He said his friend who was inside the Mandalay Bay met up with the group at the hotel before it was locked down.
“They locked down the hotel, and didn’t let anybody come in, didn’t let anybody go out. There was police everywhere.”
The gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, fired a barrage of bullets from his 32nd-floor window at the Mandalay Bay hotel at 22,000 concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest festival.
Reports indicate Paddock, who police believe acted alone, fired for nine to 11 minutes in an attack that appears to have been meticulously planned, although police haven’t yet found a motive.
When officers entered his hotel room, they found Paddock dead.
Authorities believe he killed himself.
The massacre left at least 59 people dead, and more than 500 others injured.
Cserpes said his group arrived in Las Vegas on Wednesday, and came home on Tuesday morning.
He said his one friend, who has a wife and three kids, was still shook up from what they witnessed when they arrived back home.
“He got off the plane, and an ambulance had to take him to the hospital. Honestly, the scariest part was not knowing where these shots were coming from. You hear things being hit, the fence being hit, so you don’t know — is it front of me, is it behind me, do we duck, do we run?”