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Las Vegas shooting: off-duty firefighters were on the front line of America’s worst mass shooting

Las Vegas police release bodycam video compilation during shooting
Bodycam video released by Las Vegas police show officers taking cover, helping civilians when Stephen Paddock opened fire on crowds of people at country music festival.

Off-duty firefighters are speaking up about their experiences on the front line of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

About a dozen off-duty firefighters were at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas on Sunday night when Stephen Paddock fired down on a crowd of 22,000 from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Coverage of the Las Vegas shooting on Globalnews.ca:

They helped evacuate and treat people who were shot.

Two of them were shot while they were giving CPR to other victims.

Here are some of their stories.

Ben Cole

Las Vegas firefighter shares his story of the deadly mass shooting
Las Vegas firefighter shares his story of the deadly mass shooting

Like many people at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on Sunday night, Las Vegas firefighter and paramedic Ben Cole thought he was hearing celebratory fireworks when the shooting started.

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“Then once the automatic fire started, we knew it was something else,” he said.

Cole was attending the festival with a close friend who happened to be a corrections officer.

His friend’s training kicked in when the shooting started — he knocked Cole to the ground and covered him.

Together, they they ran into a covered area.

READ MORE: Las Vegas shooting: first look inside gunman Stephen Paddock’s hotel room

It was only then that Cole realized his daughter was still at the festival where she was working for Community Ambulance, a private ambulance company that was providing services at the event.

“Luckily, she received a medical call a minute before the gunfire started,” Cole said.

His daughter had responded to something happening on the east side of the festival, which was on the other side of the grounds from where the shooting was happening.

Eventually, Cole managed to locate her.

“It seemed like a long time but I’m sure it was less than a minute,” he said.

“We embraced each other, shed a few tears, looked at each other and said, ‘it’s time to get to work.'”

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Together, they set up a triage area on the east side of the festival grounds that would allow them to assess victims’ conditions.

Some came to them already deceased, he said.

“We had to tell some of them that there was nothing we could do, and move on,” he said.

Nevertheless, Cole ensured that as many people received treatment as he could.

“I said ‘stop all the vehicles leaving this area,'” he said. “Not one leaves without a patient, a victim.”

Anthony Ramboni

Las Vegas firefighter watched his brother get hit at concert shooting
Las Vegas firefighter watched his brother get hit at concert shooting

Anthony Ramboni from the Henderson Fire Department was at the country music concert with his brother when gunfire rang out.

“I was there with my girlfriend and my brother and three other friends,” he said.

One of the rounds struck his brother – who he called his best friend — right in front of him.

READ MORE: A look at gun violence in America by the numbers

The shot came in the second round of gunfire.

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“That’s when I heard my brother say, ‘I got hit,'” he said.

“So I turned around and I saw my brother spitting up blood so, I knew this turned into ‘we’re here, we need treatment and we got to go.’”

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The exit was in one direction, the medical tent in another. So he sent his friends and girlfriend one way while he and another man carried his brother to where they thought the medical tent was.

“The rounds, they kind of seemed like they never stopped,” Ramboni said.

“With him in our arms, we carried him to the east side to find any medical attention that we possibly could.

“At that point I started to realize the severity of the incident and how many people were injured; it was everywhere.”

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They continued until they found some police and used their First Aid kit to treat his brother, who was hit in the upper chest.

Other victims started coming to the area – including one with a gunshot wound to the neck.

Ramboni said that’s when his training kicked in and he, along with other off-duty medics, started to assess other people’s injuries.

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“I placed my brother onto one of the first ambulances I could, because he was critical at that point,” he said.

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“And then [My friend] and I… stayed to help people and triage people to the best of our abilities.”

But Ramboni said the actions of concertgoers left a strong impression.

“I can’t stress enough how awesome the concertgoers were,” he said.

“There were people with no medical training taking off their belts and making tourniquets and putting pressure on their wounds for people they didn’t even know.”

Jesse Gomez

Las Vegas firefighter moved by civilian help during concert shooting
Las Vegas firefighter moved by civilian help during concert shooting

Las Vegas firefighter Jesse Gomez was at the concert with his family.

“We looked around and [the popping sound] kept on happening, and we saw them rush off the stage, and at that time everyone just ducked down,” he recalled.

“It was pretty unnerving to hear the shots but we knew we had to get out of there.

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“So me and my cousin picked up my wife and his wife and started moving out. I was trying to make sure my sister and my brother-in law was with us.

“There was a lady on the ground, who was bleeding from the head… so I stopped.”

Gomez sent his family ahead and stayed to help the woman, carrying her to the street where there was parking.

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That’s when he made the decision to stay and help anyone he could.

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“I ran back to the car and handed [my wife] the keys,” he said. “She begged me not to go. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. But she knew I had to go.”

He then started running back out to the concert area to grab people and bring them back to the street, where it was safe.

“As we were doing that, there was still gunfire and at this time I could have swore it was coming closer – I had no idea where it was,” he said.

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“It was very hard to walk around with someone, with their loved one deceased, and to tell them that they had to move, they can’t stay here, they were in the line of fire. But that’s what we did… we walked with them.”

Like Ramboni, he was in awe of the efforts that concertgoers made to help each other.

“People were using fences, tarps, trash cans, anything to carry people out of there, picking up people and walking them out,” Gomez said.

Fifty-nine people were killed in the shooting.

Police are still trying to establish a motive.

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