‘Attack has not put me off visiting Las Vegas again’

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

A MOURNE man whose last-minute decision to change hotels, saving him from the Las Vegas shooting, would have been arriving just minutes before the horrific mass shooting took place.

In fact, Councillor Glyn Hanna stayed in a hotel in the town where shooter, Stephen Paddock had lived.

A delay in his evening's plans meant Mr Hanna decided not to drive the additional 70 miles from Mesquite to Las Vegas and instead, checked into a hotel in the town.

Having previously stayed in Dallas at the start of his trip at the end of September, Mr Hanna had then travelled to Utah, where he stayed with friends.

"We were supposed to leave at 6pm because it takes about three hours from Utah to Las Vegas and before we left we had decided to get something to eat," he said.

"The dinner ran on, which left us later leaving. I was very tired while driving, so we stopped off in Mesquite and checked into a hotel there." Unbeknown to Mr Hanna, Mesquite would hit the headlines just hours later as it became known as the home town of gunman, Paddock.

"It was the next morning before we knew what had happened," said Mr Hanna.

"We would have been arriving at about 9.30pm in Las Vegas and were to stay in the Luxor Hotel." Paddock, a former accountant, lived in the small town of Mesquite, which is north-east of Las Vegas.

The 64-year-old had checked into the Mandalay Bay hotel and from his suite on the 32nd floor, smashed two windows and opened fire at an open-air country music festival on Sunday, 1 October.

He shot dead 59 people and injured another 527 before shooting himself dead as police approached his hotel room. Over 23 guns were found in the hotel room, as well as further firearms and explosives at his home.

As details emerged the following morning, Mr Hanna realised how close he was to being at the scene of the shooting.

"The Luxor, Excalibur and Mandalay Bay hotels are all one complex, which are connected by various corridors," he said.

"The Luxor would be about 100 yards from the Mandalay Bay. To be quite honest, I just could not believe it. When I was checking out the next day, I was chatting to the lady at the desk and she said the gunman had only lived about a block away from the hotel.

"They would have seen him walking passed it and her mother would have known him." He said the overall reaction was one of shock.

"Some reacted very angrily to it, but most people we spoke to were just in shock. Las Vegas had never had anything like that happen before." Mr Hanna, who has been to Vegas about four or five times, drove into Vegas later that day and passed the Mandalay Bay hotel.

"It was all closed off with police cars. You could not see the site of the shooting because it was all closed off.

"I have been in Vegas a number of times but the traffic was so, so light this time. When I have driven there before the traffic has been bumper to bumper, I would say everyone was staying out of the town." Despite this, Mr Hanna was surprised there was not a heavier police presence.

"When we were coming home, we went to the airport about an hour earlier to allow for any extra security checks, but there didn't seem to be any." In addition to this, he said it was striking how people seemed to carry weapons with them in the street.

"The one thing I did notice were people walking about openly with guns on their belts. That's how they seemed to react.

"There was a lot of talk going on in the media and among people we spoke to about the changes the shooter had made to the guns to make them more powerful. They would be happy to ban those (a bump stock) but not guns." Despite all this, as a regular visitor to Las Vegas, Mr Hanna has not been put off from returning.

"It would not put me off going back. It's like going to London or Paris or anywhere now, you have to go on but be careful.

"There was a funny sort of feeling in Las Vegas after it, I had never seen as little traffic as at that time.

"You could actually see the place where the shooting took place when we were on the plane flying home. It was a strange sensation.

"It reminded me of home at times, when after a bombing you could see all the debris lying on the ground afterwards."


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