Suffolk couple ran for their lives in Las Vegas mass shooting
The periods of painful reflection are becoming less frequent for Sue and Dave Mallion.
The Woolpit couple went shopping one night earlier this week, as they try to readjust to normal life, but couldn’t wait to get home to their “safe haven”.
The couple, both aged in their 60s, were two survivors of the Las Vegas mass shooting. In the darkness, engulfed by blistering rounds of indiscriminate gunfire, they ran and hid for their lives.
“It could have gone either way,” Mr Mallion readily admits. “It was a frightening experience.”
FBI agents are still trying to figure out what drove Stephen Paddock to kill 58 people at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival from his 32nd-floor hotel suite last Sunday. It was the deadliest mass shooting by a lone shooter in US history.
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“When we arrived home, it was just a total blur,” Mr Mallion said.
“We are still coping with the stress, trauma and jetlag. We slept for 12 hours on Wednesday night.
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“We went shopping to do something normal. But everybody asks how you are and it all comes back again. It was stressful really. We were glad to get back to our safe sanctuary; our home, where you feel safe and comfortable with no outside pressures.”
The couple, who have been married for 42 years and have four children and 13 grandchildren, have enjoyed several holidays to America. They were enjoying the final act of the festival when the sound of apparent fireworks emerged.
“Everyone was quite curious,” Mr Mallion said. With clarity and a sense of therapeutic release, he explains the rest of the night in his own words.
“After the first long burst of automatic fire came the second, and we thought, hang on, that’s not fireworks. People started to fall to the floor. There was a general shout ‘get down, get down!’ People were hitting the deck; whether they had been shot or not, I have no idea. It was dark and the only lights were on the stage. There was a brief lull, and the guy was obviously reloading his guns, and then it started again. When it stopped, you thought ‘We can’t stay here for long, we have got to get out’. We didn’t know where it was coming from; the same level as us or from above. But laying on the floor was not doing us any good at all.
“At the next lull, somebody shouted ‘start running!’. We all got up and started to run. At various stages, when the firing restarted, we got down and tried to make ourselves small. When he was reloading, you just got up and ran again. While we were lying down, we were able to communicate to each other, asking ‘what’s going on?’, and reassure each other.
“In hindsight, it was good we were old, as the youngsters were at the front. I’m 69 and don’t want to be in that crush anymore. We were further towards the back, and he shot closer to the front.
“But it’s just totally unnerving. You don’t expect to be involved in anything like that. When it does happen, self-preservation kicks in.
“We could then see a big row of catering vehicles between us and the exit. We managed to find a gap and once we got through, we had some cover. It felt safe. We got further out and ended up in a car park. We crouched down behind a pick-up truck and just kept moving away from the sound. The police were telling us to keep running and keep moving. Suddenly the sound changed. It went from ‘boom boom boom’ to ‘crack crack crack’. It felt so close. We thought ‘oh God, there is a second shooter’. A security man opened a fire door at the back of the Tropicana Hotel. He beckoned us in and we kept running. There was total chaos. Some chap opened the door to his room and about 20 of us just piled in, switched off the light, and laid on the floor for three hours, holding hands. I was initially running on adrenaline, but that wears off, and a feeling of total disbelief came over me.”
Eventually, at 4am, they were told it was safe to leave, and made contact with their family.
“My eldest daughter had been contacting the embassy and doing anything to contact us. We were all so relieved,” Mr Mallion said.
There was a tearful family embrace back at Gatwick Airport.
Mr Mallion said: “On the flight back, every time I closed my eyes, I just replayed the whole thing over and over. At home, I just sat there and stared into space like a zombie, hearing the gunfire. The memories are still very vivid. But the periods of recollection are becoming further apart. Just talking about it to friends, even to you, is helping relieve the stress.”
The incident has reopened the spectre of gun laws in America.
“How did he manage to amass so many weapons legally?” Mr Mallion said. “President Trump said now is not the time to discuss gun laws, but a debate is needed.”