I just don’t know how to feel. I didn’t sleep good because I (was) just worried because the shooter was still active when they were at the hotel. —Casey Hughes
SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 18 hours after he got the call, Casey Hughes still didn't know how to feel.
“My girlfriend was actually there at the concert,” the Utah cornerback said of the mass shooting in Las Vegas in which a 64-year-old man opened fire on the Route 91 Music Festival killing at least 59 injuring more than 500 people. “I don’t know how to feel about the situation because it came out of nowhere.”
Shock, sadness and disbelief were how the three Utah football players who call Las Vegas home felt about the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
“It’s terrible,” said sophomore offensive lineman Daniel Heller, who was the only one of the three who didn't have friends or family at the concert. “That’s the one thing I never expected to happen in Vegas. That town is so different. It’s heartbreaking to see.”
Freshman wide receiver Austin Turley found out, like Heller, with social media notifications and texts from home.
“Initially, I was really worried because I had a lot of friends and family that were there,” said the return LDS missionary who found his way to Utah through basketball player Parker Van Dyke, who served a mission in Birmingham, Alabama, with Turley. “Fortunately none of them were severely injured.”
One of his friends, however, was shot in the shoulder.
“He had surgery last night, and he seems to be recovering well,” Turley said, noting he’d been unable to speak directly to his friend with information coming from friends and family. “He was a police officer. He’d just graduated from the police academy last week. He was there as a spectator, from what I know.”
Hughes and Turley said their friends and family were severely shaken by what they experienced during the final act of the night Sunday.
“(My girlfriend) really didn’t know what it was,” Hughes said of the shots. “They thought it was fireworks at first, and then when it went off the second time, that’s when she said she dropped. And then, she was in the front row, she just hopped the gate with her sister.”They ran and called loved ones, letting them know what was happening and where they were headed. Hughes said she called him as she was making her escape, which was unnerving for him, as he could do nothing to help her.
They ran and called loved ones, letting them know what was happening and where they were headed. Hughes said she called him as she was making her escape, which was unnerving for him, as he could do nothing to help her.
“She got away and went into a casino,” Hughes said. “She didn’t get home until like 8 this morning.”
Hughes said his girlfriend lives about 15 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, which was dark Monday night to pay respect to the shooting victims.
“I just don’t know how to feel,” he said after practice Monday. “I didn’t sleep good because I (was) just worried because the shooter was still active when they were at the hotel.”
Turley said his cousins were also confused about what was happening when the shots rang out during Jason Aldean’s performance.
“I talked to my cousins who were there, and I think the biggest thing was that they didn’t really know where it was coming from,” Turley said. “And they were in a big, open area. So they didn’t know if they should try to run or just lay down and not move. I think that was the biggest problem is that there was so much confusion.”
Hughes said his girlfriend felt fortunate to be able to escape, as she saw another woman next to her suffer a gunshot wound.
“Mentally, she’s just kind of out of it right now,” Hughes said. “But she’ll be fine. She is real lucky.”
The senior said he looked at some videos when he first learned about the shooting, but his emotions were too raw to watch very many.
“I looked at the videos at first to see what was really going on,” he said. “After that I faded away from the videos. I just couldn’t really watch it. Somebody I’m close to could have been hit because the person next to her was hit.”