Alaska News

‘So many heroes’: Alaskan gives harrowing account of rescue efforts amid Las Vegas mass shooting

A Skagway man gave a new account this week of how he took cover from the shooter at the Las Vegas music festival before trying to help dying victims in a desperate truck ride to a hospital.

Robert Murphy said he needed the help of a man who'd been shot in the leg to hold another victim, a dying woman, in the pickup they were riding in. Bodies, he added, were "heaped so high that she was falling off of the tailgate."

"So much death and pain," Murphy wrote Tuesday in a 750-word Facebook post that's been shared more than 200 times.

But, he added: "There is no way to describe the amount of courage and selflessness we witnessed that night."

First of all, we would like to thank everyone for such an outpouring of compassion and support. This has been harder to...

Posted by Robert Murphy on Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Murphy, 46, and his wife, Christy, were among more than a dozen Alaskans attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival Sunday night in Las Vegas. That's where authorities say 64-year-old Stephen Paddock shot and killed at least 59 people and injured more than 500 during a concert by country singer Jason Aldean.

Two Anchorage residents were killed.

Related: [Two Alaskans killed, one wounded in mass shooting at Las Vegas music festival]


One was Dorene Anderson, an Anchorage hockey enthusiast and self-described stay-at-home mother who was at the festival with her family. The other was 35-year-old Adrian Murfitt, a commercial fisherman and Dimond High School graduate who was shot in the neck and died in the arms of a close friend, Brian MacKinnon.

At least one other Alaskan, 52-year-old Rob McIntosh of North Pole, was injured. And several others have offered firsthand accounts of the mayhem during and after the shootings, including Audra McCann, a niece of Alaska Gov. Bill Walker.

Murphy owns a tourism business, Alaska Excursions, and has served on the city and borough planning and zoning commission in the small Southeast town of Skagway, a cruise ship destination about 90 miles north of Juneau by boat.

Related: [Girlfriend of Las Vegas gunman said she had no warning about massacre]

He posted his account late Tuesday, writing that he thought it would be easier to share it online, since "every time we are asked about our story, the details emerge again and it becomes harder and harder to talk about." He declined to be interviewed by phone, but fleshed out his account in a series of Facebook messages with Alaska Dispatch News.

Murphy said he was holding his wife's hand close to the front of the stage, where they were with a group of eight friends from California, when the shooting started. After hiding behind a vendor's booth, they eventually found their way out under a fence.

"Behind us looked like a war zone," Murphy wrote.

As victims began to emerge, Christy began stopping cars in traffic to help carry them away, he said. Robert, with the help of "total strangers," helped load people in.

"I saw a girl in the middle of a road on top of a beer cart. We lifted her to the back of the truck," he wrote. "We had bodies heaped so high that she was falling off of the tailgate, so I locked arms with someone in the back and held onto the truck with my other arm to keep her from falling out.

"I turned back to find my wife, as I knew I had to go with the truck. She was holding a victim. I yelled that I would find her, then we drove away," Murphy said. "The drive was over curbs and through red lights, and at one point I had to ask one of the victims — who had been shot in the leg — to help me hold the girl in. He was in immense pain and shock, but helped hold on despite himself."

The girl Murphy was helping "didn't make it," he wrote. Another girl also died on the drive, he said, but the rest of the people in the truck arrived alive.

He and others performed CPR on victims until staff from the hospital came to help. Then he and two others got back into the truck and returned to pick up more of the injured.

"It became harder and harder to find survivors. So much death," Murphy wrote.

Murphy and his wife are now back in Alaska, though the shooting, he said, has been more difficult to deal with than he expected.

"I'm still having a hard time," he wrote in a message.

But he also described, in his post, a "renewed faith in humanity" inspired by the response to the shooting that he witnessed Sunday.

"Every person was blind to color and race: We were all one," Murphy wrote. "So many brothers and sisters, so many heroes."

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage-based independent journalist Nathaniel Herz has been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. Read his newsletter, Northern Journal, at