Sunday night’s carnage in Las Vegas was unfathomable, according to a Lexington resident who was working at what became the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
James Ochsenbein is the head of the camera department for Lexington-based Post Time Studios, which was contracted by LiveNation to take video of various performers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Vegas. He was backstage, just wrapping up his day with fellow Lexington native Chad Perkins, when he heard what he initially thought were fireworks.
“But then after a few seconds you heard people screaming, the music stopping and everyone running in every direction,” Ochsenbein said. “Chad and I took off running and went into the production trailer to hunker down. There were about 15 to 20 people in there, and we just stayed down and locked the door, turned the lights off and waited for the shooting to stop.”
Ochsenbein, concert workers and festival-goers had no idea where the gunman was. They simply heard rapid gunshots.
“I was able to look out the window, and Chad and I were in utter disbelief,” he said. “Imagine 20,000 people running over each other trying to get out. I don’t know what to compare it to. World War Z maybe.”
The shooter, Stephen Paddock, 64, was on the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.
Paddock killed at least 58 people and injured more than 500, local authorities said.
When Ochsenbein and Perkins got the OK from Las Vegas police to leave the trailer, they used back roads a block or two off the Vegas strip because they weren’t sure whether the shooter was on foot.
“Along the way, we saw CPR being done, people crying, blood all over the place, police running every way and sirens,” Ochsenbein said. “We ran toward the service entrance, and fences were down and everything was just laid over from people going through the businesses along the perimeter of the festival.”
A couple of hours after the shooting, Ochsenbein and Perkins made it back to their hotel, the Excalibur, just a few blocks down from the Mandalay. They were able to get about an hour of sleep during the night and spent most of Monday on the phone with family and friends.
Their initial plan was to leave Vegas on Monday, but they now have to wait until Wednesday or Thursday because their camera gear remains at the festival site, which is closed.
Thankful they are safe, they have told themselves since the shooting to never take a day for granted.
“Tell the ones you love that you love them every day,” Ochsenbein said. “Squeeze your kids tight. Chad and I were following families out, and that’s what really hurt me. Chad doesn’t have kids, but I have two children, and I heard parents frantically trying to get ahold of their kids. It’s such a sad day.”