Steve Yeo and his family had attended the Route 91 Harvest Festival the last two years. But on Sunday it was just him in the Las Vegas crowd when mayhem ensued.
His wife was in a hotel room nursing a headache; two other family members had stayed back in Kansas City. Yeo was just outside the country music concert venue trying to re-enter when the first round of automatic gunfire shattered the night.
“You thought it was fireworks,” said Yeo upon arriving Monday at Kansas City International Airport. The firing sounds “paused for a while and the next thing you know it started up again...
“You would’ve sworn someone was chasing us down with a machine gun.”
Yeo was among more than 20,000 concert-goers who witnessed one of the worst mass shootings in modern U.S. history: at least 59 people killed and more than 500 injured.
Stephen Paddock, 64, was found dead in the 32nd-floor hotel room from which he is thought to have fired.
Yeo, thinking a gunman was behind him terrorizing the street outside the concert, used all his strength to scale a 6-foot concrete barrier to enter the venue. But once inside, he saw crowds scurrying to get out.
“I thought maybe jumping that wall wasn’t the best decision,” he said.
He followed the other runners behind a bleacher section. They tore down a T-shirt sales stand blocking their route to safety.
“We passed so many people on the ground in huddled balls, too scared to move,” said Yeo, 51. “I kept telling them, ‘You gotta move!’
“I was there running for my life” and noticed no shooting victims in his path, he said. “I didn’t know I could run that hard for that long (about two miles), but I did.”
Reflecting on the massacre after his flight home, he and wife Sidra Yeo said they were thankful their plans for this year’s music festival ran into difficulties.
In past festivals, the family planted itself at the front of the crowd, just off to the right of the stage, Steve Yeo said. Had they been at that spot Sunday night, the gunman might have shot them.
“You think about any event that draws people outside around high-rise buildings. How safe are they anymore?” Yeo asked. “Times Square on New Year’s — is that something we’ll have to stop doing?”