Man sur­vives Ve­gas mas­sacre, dies in home­town mass shooting

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OBITUARIES - By Kath­leen Ron­ayne and Amanda Lee My­ers

THOU­SAND OAKS, Calif. — Tel Or­fanos lived through the dead­li­est mass shooting in mod­ern U.S. his­tory, only to lose his life in an­other one less than 10 min­utes from his home barely a year later, a tragic co­in­ci­dence that has dev­as­tated his friends and fam­ily.

The 27-year-old Navy vet­eran was among sev­eral sur­vivors of last year’s Las Ve­gas mas­sacre who were at the Border­line Bar & Grill in Thou­sand Oaks when a gun­man stormed in and killed 12 peo­ple late Wed­nes­day. While the oth­ers be­came two-time sur­vivors, Or­fanos died.

“He sur­vived Ve­gas, where a lot more peo­ple died than this. It’s just un­real,” his friend Al­iza Thomas said Fri­day. “It’s not fair.”

Thomas, who has known Or­fanos since they were in high school, said her friend didn’t talk much about his ex­pe­ri­ence in Ve­gas. Or­fanos liked to fo­cus on the pos­i­tive.

“He was al­ways such a happy per­son,” she said.

Or­fanos’ mother, Su­san Sch­midt-Or­fanos, was shak­ing with rage and grief when she spoke about how her son was un­able to sur­vive two mass killings.

“Here are my words: I want gun con­trol,” Sch­midt-Or­fanos told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts.”

She said she wanted Congress “to pass gun con­trol so no one else has a child that doesn’t come home.”

Dani Mer­rill, who sur­vived both Ve­gas and Border­line, was among mourn­ers at a packed theater Thurs­day hon­or­ing Or­fanos and the oth­ers who lost their lives in the shooting at the bar.

“I’m su­per up­set that it hap­pened in our home, and I feel aw­ful for the fam­i­lies that have to go through this,” said Mer­rill, the ex­haus­tion ev­i­dent in her eyes.

“I didn’t sleep,” she ex­plained. “It’s hard to sleep af­ter th­ese kinds of things. You don’t know how to feel.”

Bren­dan Kelly, a 22-year-old Marine, also sur­vived Ve­gas and was at the Border­line bar when Wed­nes­day’s shooting hap­pened.

“I al­ready didn’t wish it on any­body to be­gin with for the first time,” Kelly said out­side his home in Thou­sand Oaks. “The sec­ond time around doesn’t get any eas­ier.”

Kelly said he was danc­ing with his friends when the bul­lets be­gan fly­ing.

“The chills go up your spine. You don’t think it’s real — again,” he said.

He said he threw two of his friends to the floor and cov­ered them with his body. Then he got a look at the shooter and the ter­ror un­fold­ing and de­cided they needed to es­cape.

Kelly said he dragged one woman out a back emer­gency exit and then, us­ing his belt, T-shirt and Marine train­ing, ap­plied a tourni­quet to his friend’s bleed­ing arm. Two of his friends were killed in the shooting.

In Las Ve­gas and Thou­sand Oaks, coun­try mu­sic fans were the vic­tims. Border­line was hav­ing a weekly coun­try night and the Ve­gas shooter tar­geted a crowd of coun­try fans gath­ered for the Route 91 Har­vest Fes­ti­val.

Kelly, who has a large tat­too on his left arm memo­ri­al­iz­ing the Las Ve­gas shooting, said that Border­line had be­come a safe haven for dozens of Ve­gas sur­vivors and it was com­mon for many of them to hang out there to­gether.

PEAR­SON] [AP PHOTO/RYAN

Bren­dan Kelly speaks with re­porters out­side his home as he shows his Route 91 tat­too on Thurs­day, Nov.8, in Thou­sand Oaks, Cal­i­for­nia. Kelly, a Marine who was at Border­line Bar and Grill on Wed­nes­day night, helped peo­ple get out af­ter a gun­man opened fire at the es­tab­lish­ment. Kelly also sur­vived the Las Ve­gas Route 91 Har­vest Fes­ti­val shooting in 2017.

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