October 3, 2017 9:48 am
Updated: October 3, 2017 4:11 pm

‘I couldn’t leave him’: Las Vegas bartender recounts how she held dying B.C. man’s hand

ABOVE: Bartender Heather Gooze was working the night of the Las Vegas shooting. When an injured man was brought to her, she stayed with him, holding his hand as he passed. That man was 23-year-old B.C. resident Jordan McIldoon.

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NOTE: Jordan McIldoon’s family has now released a statement regarding this story. Scroll down to read it.

“I reached over and I was holding this guy’s hand, and I could kind of feel him squeeze my fingers and then all of a sudden, like…he wasn’t squeezing my fingers anymore.”

Jordan McIldoon, 23 — one of the Canadians killed in the mass shooting in Las Vegas — was not alone for the last moments of his life.

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But the person sitting by his side and holding his hand was a complete stranger.

McIldoon, from Maple Ridge, B.C., was killed when a gunman opened fire at an outdoor music festival on the Las Vegas Strip Sunday night.

READ MORE: Las Vegas shooting: Canadians among 59 dead, over 500 injured after attack at music festival

McIldoon was at the concert with his girlfriend, Amber, when he was hit by a bullet. The two became separated and McIldoon was carried out of the venue on top of a ladder, a makeshift stretcher, by three men.

Bartender Heather Gooze, who was working the concert, heard the men yelling for help.

WATCH: B.C. victims of Las Vegas massacre

“I grabbed the corner of the ladder, I put my hand on the arm of the guy that was on there, we brought him out, set him down on the sidewalk,” said Gooze.

The three men said they had to return to the concert grounds to pick up more wounded people and they left.

That’s when Gooze held McIldoon’s hand and he passed away.

“And I was trying to talk to him, some other people came over, we tried to find a pulse. There was no pulse, there was no nothing … he died right there while I was … next to him. And then I just stayed, I don’t know why … I just sat there and I stayed.”

About an hour later, McIldoon’s cellphone rang and Gooze answered. It was one of his friends.

READ MORE: Maple Ridge man Jordan McIldoon killed in Las Vegas shooting

When they talked, Gooze was able to find out it was McIldoon. She looked him up on Facebook and sent messages to his mom and girlfriend.

Using McIldoon’s cellphone, she was able to eventually call Amber.

“She was actually in lockdown of the basement of the Tropicana, had no idea what was going on, had no idea where Jordan was. She asked if he was OK, and I said ‘no.’ She asked if he was hurt, and I said ‘yes.’ And she said, ‘be honest with me. Just tell me …’ and I said, ‘he didn’t make it.’ She said, ‘are you sure?’ And I said, ‘I’ve been with him for over an hour.’ She says, ‘can you check again? Make sure he’s not breathing?’ And I said, ‘I promise you … I’m like … he’s …’ — she said he was the love of [her] life.”

Gooze promised to stay with McIldoon.

“I will not leave him, I’m going to stay here with him, I’m going to make sure you know exactly where he is and what’s going on.”

An hour later, the phone rang and she relayed the same news to McIldoon’s mother.

WATCH: Heather Gooze fights back tears as she remembers McIldoon

“We talked about him, she told me a little bit about him, she said ‘are you still there with him?’ and I said ‘yes’, and she said ‘are you going to stay with him?’ and I said ‘I promise you I am, I promised Amber that I would and I promise you that I will stay with him.'”

READ MORE: Former B.C. news anchor Hudson Mack’s son wounded in Las Vegas shooting

She stayed with McIldoon for about four hours, until 3:30 a.m. when the detectives came.

“I promised them that I wasn’t going to leave him. I didn’t want him to just … nobody knew who he was, nobody was there with him. I couldn’t let Jordan just be there and have people not know, how could someone not be there to answer his phone? To tell people what was going on? To tell Amber, who was a block away and couldn’t get to him.”

“I couldn’t leave him and I don’t know why.”

A GoFundMe has been set up in memory of Jordan McIldoon – you can donate here.

Online debate

In response to an online debate about the validity of Gooze’s comments, McIldoon’s family has now released a statement to the media.

It reads in full:

Thank you all for your kindness.  I am asking that you do not wade into the debate over who was with Jordan at his final moments.  Please I beg you I don’t want to take away from all the goodness and love in this story.  Both Heather and Amber were there with him at points in the night and it really does not matter who was there at what time.   It was bedlam and chaotic.  Let’s focus on what we do know, he was killed there and now we are working on getting our boy home.

The family has also released a larger statement about McIldoon and his life.

It reads in full:

Our son, Jordan, was a compassionate young man who lived a life full of adventures. From a young age, he was fearless. From finding him perched on the roof of the barn at age two or having him leap into the deep end of the lake before he could swim, he was always on the go. He grew up on our acreage in Maple Ridge and so a love of the outdoors was born within him.

He loved playing hockey and snowboarding. He was an avid BMX rider and a talented downhill mountain biker, spending many summers in Whistler. When on his bike, Jordan could often be seen upside down doing a flip or roaring down a bike park with a cheeky tail whip – he was in his glory. He loved riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle and driving his big redneck diesel truck. He loved NASCAR and country music and was rarely seen out of his cowboy boots.

Jordan was at his happiest while at our beloved cabin at Missezula Lake. There he spent countless hours riding dirt bikes, wakeboarding, snowmobiling and hanging with his friends from the community who were like his family.

Jordan was a month shy of finishing his heavy duty mechanic apprenticeship. He was so proud that he was almost done and he loved his company, Jacob Bros Construction, especially his boss, Rick.

Jordan was a family man and was living on our property with his adored girlfriend Amber and, of course, his beloved Nana who he loved deeply and always wanted to protect.

We have to share some of the incredible stories of compassion, love and support, many of it from complete strangers, which we have experienced over the last two days. Air Canada flight attendants and crew were incredibly supportive, moving us into First Class and escorting us first off the plane, to the Air Canada manager who met us and took us directly to a limo they had arranged to take us to the police station. At the family meeting place, we were supported by counsellors, volunteers, assistance dogs, the coroner, police, chaplains, Red Cross, and more. The Canadian Consular staff have been a huge help to us. The MGM Signature Hotel has provided us with a complimentary suite. We have had hugs from random strangers. I am a 30 year employee of ICBC and my colleagues and friends at work have been unwavering in their love and support. Sgt Mitch Fox from the Ridge Meadows RCMP has been a huge help to our family in making sure our property and Nana are secure and safe while we are away dealing with this.

From the people who stayed with Jordan that night and held his hand, to the first responders who had to rush in to an unimaginable scene, we would like to thank everyone for their incredible love and support. Jordan did his best to make sure Amber was safe and we know he would have helped others had he not been injured himself.

We choose to focus on love over hatred and are moving forward knowing that Jordan was so incredibly loved by many. His was a life well lived. He was our only child and no words can describe our pain in losing him.

The family is asking the media to please respect their privacy in this difficult time. There is nothing further for release.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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