independent

Thursday 18 January 2018

Bray's James was on day off from work at hotel at centre of Vegas shooting

James Nealon from Bray
James Nealon from Bray
Armed police in Las Vegas in the aftermath of the massacre.
The Mandalay Bay hotel, with the smashed windows of the shooter's hotel room.

Mary Fogarty

Bray man James Nealon works at the Las Vegas hotel where at least 59 people died last Sunday. He happened to have the day off and learned about the shooting on Facebook.

James and his wife Lisa just had a new baby, Liam, four weeks ago and James's mother is over helping them out at the moment.

'We were all at home watching TV when I look at my phone and on Facebook I notice something strange about the Route 91 country music festival,' said James.

'I stand up and pause the TV and let the girls know that there is an active shooter in Mandalay Bay and that it's happening right now. We all frantically start to see if we can find any more information on what's happening.'

James works in an Irish bar in Mandalay Bay called Rira and his father-in-law works as a dealer in the poker room. 'Lisa starts calling her dad, I start calling everyone I know who's working there. I finally get through to a girl called Sara who is freaking out. Nobody knows what's going on.'

A short while later the TV news started to report that there was a shooting under way, with numerous victims deceased or injured.

'The things that go through your head when you hear something like that are so scary. Waking up after a day like that, you don't know how to feel,' said James. 'You're hoping that everything is going to be okay the next day but you're not sure. I went into work after all of the road blockages had been cleared but there was still an active crime scene outside where we work.

'It was very eerie. You see hundreds and hundreds of people queuing up to give blood and people going out and buying food for these people. They say there were eight-hour lines to give blood.'

James said that the community really came together in the aftermath of the massacre. 'Even though Las Vegas is such a fast-paced town it really is quite a close-knit community. They say that Nevadans are battle born and I think it really shows in times like this.'

James said that the work of all of the first responders, paramedics and police officers saved hundreds of lives. 'To have a crowd as big as the country festival and to be able to get everybody out as safely as possible was amazing.

'It's such a weird feeling being a part of all this,' said James. One of his wife's friends was shot in the leg, others even worse. 'It makes you realise how short life is and how quickly it can be taken away from us.

'Fifty-nine people killed and more than 500 injured - it's scary to think that one man could do that.

'It will never be forgotten. It's been heard about all over the world and people can relate to a tragedy like this. I believe there has been over $2 million raised in efforts to help out. I think from that you can tell how many hearts this event has touched.'

James and his friends and colleagues are determined to carry on.

'It would be very easy for everyone to stay inside and not go to work, to be scared, but that's what people like that want. To strike terror and fear into the community. But you can't. Everyone has to get out and help. If it's not donating blood or money, its distributing water and food to the needy. I think as scary and as chaotic as it was, it's times like this that drive the people of Las Vegas and surrounding community together and everyone should be very proud of themselves.'

Wicklow County Council has opened an online Book of Condolence in solidarity with the people of the US and in memory of the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Members of the public are invited to sign the book of condolence on line at www.wicklow.ie and once closed, the book will be delivered to the US embassy in Dublin.

'On behalf of Wicklow County Council and the people of Wicklow, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to the families and friends of those killed and injured. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time,' said Cllr Edward Timmins, cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council.

Frank Curran, chief executive of Wicklow County Council, said: 'By opening this book of condolence, Wicklow County Council is giving the people of County Wicklow the opportunity to express solidarity with the people of America and Las Vegas following this meaningless attack.'

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