‘ONLY AF­TER­WARDS DOES IT SEEM SCARY’

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - LIZ PERKINS Re­porter elizabeth.perkins@waleson­line.co.uk PAN­THER DRIVER TROOPER DEAN PRIESTLEY

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

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