‘ONLY AFTERWARDS DOES IT SEEM SCARY’
WELSH soldiers feared the gunman behind the Las Vegas massacre was inside the same building as them as they rushed to move people to safety.
They had been dining out at Hooters on the Vegas Strip in the morning when they became aware of the carnage unfolding at a country music Route 91 Harvest festival.
Gunman Stephen Craig Paddock, aged 64, claimed the lives of 59 and injured 520 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
Trooper James Astbury, aged 22, of 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, from Ruthin, Denbighshire, who usually takes care of the squadron with water, fuel and rations, and the regiment’s Panther driver Trooper Dean Priestley, 26, from Kinmel Bay, near Rhyl, did not hesitate to put the injured first.
James said: “People started bursting into the restaurant – some with gunshot wounds.”
Trooper Priestley, of Kinmel Bay, who returned from Las Vegas yesterday and was back at his base in Norfolk, said they had been enjoying a night out in Hooters when the massacre happened.
He said: “We were having food when it all took over.
“We were having chicken wings and beer. We pretended to the Hooters girls that it was one of the lad’s birthday and they were singing.
“People started moving quickly towards the front door and we
The gunman was still chasing them and they thought that there was more than one and an IED threat
thought there was a celebrity.
“Then people started throwing tables, running and hiding behind slot machines. They said, ‘There’s a gunman outside.’ We ran towards the door and ushered people upstairs.
“We moved towards the front of the building and started to triage and found out as much as we could and were going up to people to see if they were OK.
“The front of Hooters became the triage point. Everyone was running away from the arena.
“There were a couple of people with quite severe injuries in the lobby. We just tried to calm them down.
“There was a woman with a gash on top of her head and I handed her over to a first responder. There was a guy with a gunshot wound to the butt cheek.”
He said they tried to calm people down but people were terrified they were still in danger.
“The gunman was still chasing them and they thought that there was more than one and an IED (improvised explosive device) threat.
“They just kept running until they found somewhere safe. Some ran all the way down to the Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas sign.”
The dad, whose wife is Tasha Priestley, 25, and who is dad to Scarlett, three, and one-year-old Charlie, said he realised how much danger he had faced afterwards.
“It hit me a bit after,” he said. “With a military background you hit onto professional mode.
“When you go over it in your head it’s quite scary, as I have two kids.
“We did have a job to do but it was a shock to the system.”
He said he was without a phone when the gunman started firing so he was unable to alert his family as to what was going on.
“I thought I had better let people know I was all right,” he said.
“Most people were in bed as there’s an eight-hour difference.”
He was first in Hooters at 10.10pm and was there in the early hours helping support the injured.
“Before I knew it was 4.30am in the morning,” he said.
“I was walking around making sure everyone was OK.”
But he added: “I do not feel brave, I felt like I was doing what I’m trained to do.”
Dean said key army training had made all the difference.
“We have just had four weeks of casualty drills so it was fresh in our heads,” he said.
“It was definitely an experience.”
Dean Priestly, 28, from Kinmel Bay in North Wales, was one of the British soldiers who tried to save victims of the Las Vegas shooting massacre