A Las Vegas shooting victim said he continues to be overwhelmed with support from Williams Lake residents, and others from around the world, after being injured in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history Oct. 1.
“I never fought in a war before, never been in a fire fight before, never been shot at,” said 55-year-old Kevin Sears in a phone interview with the Tribune. “It was a pretty traumatic event, that’s for sure. I have spoken with a counsellor for about 20 minutes, just to see where the state of my mind was at. So far so good.”
Sears grew up in Williams Lake and has lived in the Lower Mainland since 1985.
He is still recovering from a gunshot wound to the back that has damaged his lung and spleen, however, he was feeling well enough Friday to recount the traumatic events that unfolded around him and his long-time wife, Coleen, as the avid country music fans took in the Route 91 Harvest Festival concert across from the Mandalay Bay Resort.
Country singer Jason Aldean was performing at about 10 p.m. when Sears said the first round of gunfire went off, which at first he thought it was just firecrackers.
“Then a gentleman got shot in the head right beside me. I knew we were under fire and someone was shooting at us.”
Describing the concert area as a battle zone, Sears said everybody started yelling to get down so he and Coleen lay on the ground.
“Then a second barrage of shots came upon us and a lady behind me said she felt like she was shot so I went to help her out. A third barrage of shots came upon us and that’s when I got hit.”
Kevin removed his shirt and gave it to Coleen to apply pressure to his gunshot wound.
“I told her we had to make our way to the stage so we crawled to the fence that was separating the stage from the fans. We crawled over the fence, which was about five feet high, and then we crawled underneath the stage and remained there until the shooting had stopped.”
There were about 10 people under the stage with them, and that’s when Sears called his 20-year-old son to tell him they might not survive the attack.
“I made one tough call to our son to tell him we might not make it home,” he said.
Immediately after the shooting stopped, the couple heard some people calling out that there was an injured person under the stage.
“We could hear some other people yelling, ‘where are you guys?’ and they said ‘under the stage’ so then a couple of guys came and pulled us out and then back over the fence. We crossed the main part of the fair grounds where we walked over about 15 dead people.”
The couple made it to the street where victims were being taken to hospitals.
Sears was put into a police car with two other injured people and transported to Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas.
“I had to give my cell phone to Coleen because she had lost hers during the shooting,” he said. “I had to leave her there all by herself. Our friends had escaped by a different route and gone to a motel.”
Eventually with the help of her parents and their son, Coleen was reconnected with their friends and went to stay with them at the motel.
Kevin said he was in the hospital for about five hours.
The medical staff took x-rays, assessed the damages, and told him he had broken ribs and there were some fragmented bullets in his abdomen.
“Parts of the ribs had also shattered and there were partial rib bones inside me,” he said.
They stitched him up and then he had an interview with an FBI agent and with a Las Vegas metro policeman.
He was discharged and given a taxi voucher which he used to join Coleen and their friends at the motel.
The Sears arrived back in Canada on Tuesday, Oct. 3 and Kevin saw his own doctor the next day.
He went to Royal Columbian Hospital on Oct. 6 because of a large hematoma forming around his gunshot wound and last week spent five days in Surrey Memorial Hospital because of further complications.
“I have a small hole in my left lung, a bruised diaphragm and a slightly damaged spleen,” he said. “I was in the hospital for observation and one minor surgery.”
He said Coleen is coping, but has had some bad days and bad nights.
“But we made it and we are lucky to be alive.”
Kevin still has family and friends living in Williams Lake who have been reaching out to support the couple since the attack.
Last week his long-time friend George Bell, also a former Williams Lake resident, created a GoFundMe account to help Kevin’s family while he recuperates.
“We’ve been friends for 35 years and in all that time he has never and would never ask anyone for help,” Bell said. “What he went through is life changing and something he will always have to deal with. It’s going to be a long road ahead and starting a GoFundMe for his recovery was the right thing to do.”
The fund has already reached $11,600 and Bell said he cannot thank everyone enough.
In all, 59 people were killed and 527 injured in the Las Vegas shooting, which was carried out by a 64-year-old man who shot himself in his Mandalay Bay hotel room before police apprehended him.