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Great Falls woman survives Las Vegas massacre - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Great Falls woman survives Las Vegas massacre

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LAS VEGAS - A man perched on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas casino opened fire on an outdoor country music festival below, killing at least 59 people and leaving 527 injured as thousands of frantic concert-goers screamed and ran for their lives.

As authorities try to piece together what happened and why, Great Falls native Dakota Whetham felt lucky to be alive.

This was the second year in a row that Whetham was attending the festival in Las Vegas. 

She and her friends were looking forward to seeing all of the artists performing during the three-day festival. 

Whetham says that when the shooting started, she and her group of about 15 friends initially thought it was fireworks.

"We were about 20 feet to the left of the stage. Jason Aldean kept looking over and wondering what the sound was," Whetham said. 

She says once the shooting started it did not stop for ten minutes. Whetham said once she realized what was happening she froze. 

"A friend of mine actually throw his body over me as the shots started. After that I just wanted to get out of there. I needed to get out of there," Whetham said.

There originally was not an entrance in the area but people had knocked down barricades so they could get away from the gunfire.

"I saw quite a few people on the ground and lots of blood. People were just dropping as I was running. What we saw was unbelievable," Whetham said. 

The group ran about a mile and a half away from the site, until a couple at a Motel 6 invited them in for a safe place to stay. 

Whetham said they stayed in at that hotel until 2:30, and then they took a cab to the Thomas and Mack Center

"I am still kind of in shock and none of the friends that I was with have slept. I want to get out of Las Vegas and not come back, in all honesty," Whetham said. 

Whetham says she will never be able to get the images of people dying out of her head. 

The gunman was found dead at the scene and has been identified as Stephen Paddock. Investigators are still trying to discern Paddock's motive.

Authorities found 16 rifles and one handgun in Paddock's hotel suite. They found 18 additional firearms, explosives, and several thousand rounds of ammunition in his home.

Officials said Paddock shot and killed himself before a SWAT team breached the door.

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