Las Vegas shooting massacre: Wollongong trio’s horror visit to US

Emergency workers use a wheelbarrow to move a wounded person in the aftermath of the shooting. Inset: Richard Bone, General Manager of Wollongong's The Builder's Club. Main photo: Chase Stevens/Las VegasReview-Journal via AP
Emergency workers use a wheelbarrow to move a wounded person in the aftermath of the shooting. Inset: Richard Bone, General Manager of Wollongong's The Builder's Club. Main photo: Chase Stevens/Las VegasReview-Journal via AP

A Flinders man caught up in the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history says the experience has made him reluctant to join a crowd.

Less than 12 hours after arriving in Las Vegas for a major global gaming expo, The Builders Club general manager Richard Bone took an after-dinner walk along the famously neon-lit strip.

Richard Bone returned to Australia on Monday after a harrowing experience in Sin City. Photo: Sylvia Liber

Richard Bone returned to Australia on Monday after a harrowing experience in Sin City. Photo: Sylvia Liber

Approaching its southern end, he heard the first of the gunshots that would claim 60 lives, including that of gunman Stephen Paddock.  

With two Wollongong co-workers, he joined a stampede and took cover in the nearest store – M&M’s World. The trio spent almost two tense hours among the brightly coloured stocks of chocolate, awaiting the all-clear.

"We didn't know what was happening," said Mr Bone. 

Police run to cover at the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Photo: John Locher, AP

Police run to cover at the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Photo: John Locher, AP

"There were stories of snipers running around. Everyone was in a mad panic. The whole crowd just turned and ran – people were trampled on.” 

“We dived into M&Ms World. Everyone was ducking for cover, all the shelves were falling down. There were [packets of ] M&Ms running down over me – we were all covered in M&Ms.

"All you could hear were people crying and sobbing. 

Drapes billow out of broken windows at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino. Authorities say Stephen Craig Paddock broke the windows and began firing with a cache of weapons, killing dozens and injuring hundreds. Photo: John Locher, AP

Drapes billow out of broken windows at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino. Authorities say Stephen Craig Paddock broke the windows and began firing with a cache of weapons, killing dozens and injuring hundreds. Photo: John Locher, AP

“I've never been so scared in my life." 

The trio initially took refuge under a cash register. Among those inside was a woman who had been attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival, about 800 metres away, when bullets rained down on the crowd, fired through a broken window of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. 

“She said people were getting shot around them. She’d lost her father and boyfriend. She was hysterically crying out for them.” 

Builders club manager Linda Bonham.

Builders club manager Linda Bonham.

Mr Bone was visiting Sin City with Builders club managers Rebecca Goodman and Linda Bonham to meet with designers and gather ideas as the Wollongong club is readied for renovations. 

He said he became more frightened when they were directed to moved from the shop floor into a windowless stairwell, even though it was considered safer. 

“Before, I could see outside. You could try and address the situation if someone came up – throw a chair at them or something. But then, covered up, not knowing if someone could burst through at any time … there was no hope of escaping the fire exit.” 

Casino patrons are searched by Las Vegas police. Photo: Chase Stevens, AP

Casino patrons are searched by Las Vegas police. Photo: Chase Stevens, AP

In daylight, as he traveled to the airport several days afterwards, he realised the shooter’s incredible vantage point.

Vegas had been a strangely sombre place in the days after the shooting. Reluctant to re-join a crowd, he had avoided concerts he might otherwise have attended – and still does. 

“I don’t think I’ll be going to any big cities – definitely no big concerts.” he said.