By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun
Editor’s Note: As the names of the victims from the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas emerged, it seemed that no community was spared the grief of losing a loved one or knowing someone who had been in the crowd during the chaos. Residents in the Kern River Valley joined a grieving nation as we learned the names of those individuals with ties to the valley. The Sun reached out to family members for interviews, but the pain of this tragedy is too overwhelming for many to even talk about.
Two valley residents agreed to be interviewed, but admitted that they were hesitant, partly because they did not want to bring attention to themselves or, more importantly, take anything away from those who are struggling through the grief of losing a loved one or recovering from injuries. The prayers of the Kern Valley and nation continue to be offered to those impacted by this incomprehensible violence. The Sun appreciates area residents who allowed us to tell their stories about the frightening moments during the shooting. Hopefully, it will help them in dealing with their physical and emotional scars that will be left by senseless act of violence.
Ken Robesky and Bre Mundy
Ken Robesky and Breanne (Bre) Mundy both love country music. So much so, that the recently engaged couple decided to meet up with some friends from the Los Angeles area and head to Las Vegas for a weekend of country music and fun at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. They never dreamed that they would be caught up in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The first few days were ideal. “We had a great weekend; the music it was fantastic,” Robesky, age 40, said. “Right up until that point.” Mundy said they were having such a good time that they were making plans to attend next year’s festival.
On the evening of Sunday, Oct. 1, the final day of the festival, the couple selected a spot down in front, about 100 feet from the center stage. Country music star Jason Aldean had taken the stage as the headliner and last performer to close out the three-day festival.
When the first round of gunfire erupted, Robesky and Mundy both thought it was firecrackers or fireworks. Mundy said since no one in the crowd was reacting, and, like so many others, they thought it was part of the show.
“But when the second round started, I thought it sounded like gunfire, and that is when Jason Aldean stopped playing, dropped his guitar and ran off stage,” Robesky said. “That is when all hell broke loose. It was hard to tell where the shots were coming from. I thought the shooting was coming from the strip.”
Robesky said the arena lights came on. “But all that did was light up the crowd,” he said.
He threw Mundy under the bar and dove on top of her to protect her. “We didn’t really have any cover, the bar consisted of tables and a banner, but at least it was some concealment and we were out of sight,” he said.
With the sound of rapid gunfire popping around them, Mundy said people were running and screaming. Several people close by simply dropped to the ground, hit by gunfire.
“I wasn’t processing it. All I could think about was my 7-year old son, Ethan,” she said.
Robesky said that suddenly, the sound of the gunfire changed.
“I didn’t know if the shooter had switched positions, or if there was someone in the crowd shooting. Everything was echoing off everything else,” he said.
They were about 100 feet from an exit, and Robesky told his fiancée that when the shooting stopped, they should run for that exit. But he said when the shooting started again, he quickly changed his mind. “That area was all lit up and there were bodies down, so we hit the ground again and decided to run toward the back.”
Robesky said there was no safe place for people to run to, so every time the shooting started, people would hit the ground and when it stopped, the crowd of 22,000 would start running. “I remember telling Bre that the next time the shooting stops, just run!” he said.
They were able to make it to the back of the arena, where Robesky said people were using guard rails to stack up as a makeshift ladder in order to climb over the fence.
Mundy was getting ready to go when a man came up and asked if he could go ahead of her.
“He pulled up his shirt and he was bleeding because he had been shot in the stomach,” she said.
Mundy made it over the fence, but turning back, she realized that Robesky was still inside helping people to climb over the fence.
Once they were both out, they made their way to the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, where they found a man suffering from a shoulder wound. Robesky had a bottle of water and said he helped the man clean up the wound.
“I don’t think that I have processed the totality of what happened,” Robesky said. “It seemed like the shooting was never-ending. People were dragging people by the feet to get them out, there were bodies on the ground. I just wish I could have done more to help.”
The couple said although it seemed like a lifetime of tense terror, in reality, the whole tragic sequence lasted about 20 minutes. After reaching the MGM Grand, they still didn’t know what was going on. People were saying there were more shooters, or shooters at different casinos. It wasn’t until later that evening that they learned that the shots had been fired by a lone gunman from an upper floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort.
The couple returned home on Monday to their family and friends. They both returned to their workplaces, Robesky as Service Manager at Wells Fargo Bank branch in Lake Isabella and Mundy as a medical records clerk at Kern Valley Healthcare District.
But, like thousands of other music fans who were caught up in the massacre, their lives have been changed. “Take no day for granted and tell the people in your life that you love them,” Robesky said.”Our hearts go out to those who lost a loved one. These people were wives, husbands, sons, daughters, moms and dads that were killed.”
Some of the couple’s personal belongings, including Robesky’s cell phone, are still inside a locker at the concert grounds. Robesky admits that it doesn’t matter at this point if they get their belongings back, saying that the items are not important. He has what is important to him: his fiancée.
Still emotional as they retrace their frantic steps during the massacre, they said it will take time to get past the terror of that night. When asked about their wedding plans, the couple said that they have not set a date or location yet. But one thing Mundy knows for sure. The wedding will not take place in Las Vegas.
Billy Bob Mason
Bodfish resident Billy Bob Mason and his fiancée Regina Harris were at the main stage of the Route 91 Harvest Festival when the onslaught of bullets started.
In an interview with the Bakersfield Californian, Mason said they were running from the main stage, while bullets were flying past them and people were dropping to the ground. But then, he stopped.
Mason, a certified nurse assistant, said he saw a kid on the ground who had been hit, and he couldn’t simply get in his truck and drive away.
Mason helped a man who was holding the boy’s blood-covered head and neck. As the bullets continued hitting the ground around him, suddenly he saw the kid on the ground get hit in the abdomen and he was hit on the foot, according to the Californian.
Mason and the other man were able to get the boy to safety, then Mason and Harris ran to their truck. When he removed his boot, the discovered that the bullet had glanced off his bone, tearing into the skin of his toe. He tied his sock around the bleeding wound.
According to the Californian, he went to help get more people to safety. After pulling a few people out, Mason saw a man who had been shot in the back. He placed the injured man in the back of his pick-up truck and he and Harris started to drive toward a hospital. Along the way, they saw several ambulances and took the injured man to an ambulance.
Mason told the Californian that they returned to the festival grounds to pick up more people, but when they got there, law enforcement and emergency crews had arrived and instructed them to leave the area. Not wanting to ask of the overwhelmed hospitals to treat a flesh wound, he drove to their hotel, where staff helped to wrap up his foot. He went to an urgent care for treatment but was told to go to a hospital. But by that time, he said he was done and the couple headed home for Bodfish.
They drove all night and, according to the Californian, he drove to the hospital where he works and got his foot treated there.
Mason is on the mend from his physical injury, but like so many others, he and Harris will be struggling to get beyond the images, sounds and memories of that night.