Sunday 15 September 2019

School sweethearts and veteran among those who never got home

Sonny Melton died saving his wife Heather
Sonny Melton died saving his wife Heather
Christopher Roybal
Melissa Ramirez
Jack Beaton
Charleston Hartfield
Rachael Parker
Adrian Murfitt
Sandy Casey
Bailey Schweitzer
Angie Gomez
Quinton Robbins
Stacee Etcheber

Jason Dearen

They were school teachers and youth football coaches, real estate agents and local business owners. They were parents, siblings, husbands, wives, neighbours and friends.

They travelled to Las Vegas to see their favourite stars, posting videos and photos to social media.

At least 59 of them never made it home. Details are emerging about the lives of those who died, as well as countless more who were injured.

Friends waited for text messages that never came, families learned the worst from hospitals and local authorities. In a few cases, families still frantically searched last night for news.

Here are some of their stories:

High school sweethearts

Bobby Parks's wife was planning to throw him a 40th birthday party next week before Jenny Parks was killed at the concert, friend Jessica Maddin said.

The couple were high school sweethearts and they have two children. Jenny Parks was a kindergarten teacher in California.

Mrs Parks helped Ms Maddin start Jessica's Hope Project that provides care packages to troops.

Hard-working veteran

Christopher Roybal (28) was described as jovial and fun-loving, despite seeing intense combat during four tours in the Middle East.

"He is a guy that could always put a smile on your face ... after all the stuff he had been through," said David Harman, who founded a company that owns the Colorado gym where Mr Roybal worked. Mr Roybal moved at the beginning of the year to Colorado Springs.

Mr Harman said Mr Roybal served in Afghanistan and was coping with the loss of a friend who was killed by an improvised explosive device.

Mr Roybal adopted his friend's bomb-sniffing dog Bella, but was devastated when she died of old age.

"That dog saved his life a few times," Mr Harman said.

Mr Roybal on July 18 posted on Facebook: "What's it like to be shot at? It's a nightmare no amount of drugs, no amount of therapy and no amount of drunk talks with your war veteran buddies will ever be able to escape. Cheers boys."

Gruelling 15-hours search

Stacee Etcheber of Novata, California, was still missing last night. At the concert, her husband told her to hide, then to run, as he helped a concertgoer next to him who had been shot, said Al Etcheber, her brother-in-law.

Her husband Vincent is a San Francisco police officer, and his training kicked in immediately when shots rang out, Mr Etcheber said.

He told Stacee and the couple's three friends to protect themselves behind a nearby barrier. Then he told them to run, just before the second round of shots rang out, Mr Etcheber said. He has not heard from Stacee since.

"It's been a gruelling 15 hours with no information," Mr Etcheber said.

Stacee (50) works as a hairdresser. "She's just a loving wife, a great mother. She's tough as nails and just the salt of the earth," Mr Etcheber said.

Off-duty police officer

Off-duty Las Vegas police officer and youth football coach Charleston Hartfield was among those killed, two of his friends said.

Mr Hartfield (34) was known as a selfless leader who brought out the best in his players, said Stan King, whose son played football for Mr Hartfield.

Mr Hartfield, who also went by 'Chuck' or 'Charles', was also a military veteran and leaves behind a son and a daughter. He is also listed as author of a book titled 'Memoirs of Public Servant' about his time as a Las Vegas police officer.

Poignant last photo

Just before the shooting, Denise Burditus posted a photo on Facebook of herself and husband Tony in front of the stage, smiling broadly.

Later, after news of the massacre spread, a friend asked simply: "Are you two OK????" She never replied.

Mr Burditus later wrote on Facebook that his wife was among the victims.

"It saddens me to say that I lost my wife of 32 years, a mother-of-two, soon to be grandmother of five this evening in the Las Vegas shooting," he wrote.

"Denise passed in my arms. I LOVE YOU BABE."

No hope for fisherman

Commercial fisherman Adrian Murfitt (35), of Anchorage, Alaska, was also among the slain.

His sister Shannon Gothard said the family heard from one of Mr Murfitt's friends who was with him when he died. Asked whether the family was holding out hope for him, she said: "No, no."

Ms Gothard described her brother as a man with a big laugh and a former competitive hockey player. "His whole life was always around hockey," she said.

He had just come off an extremely successful fishing season when he made the trip to Vegas with friends.

School mourns secretary

Lisa Romero (48), a school secretary from Gallup, New Mexico, was an "incredible loving and sincere friend, mentor and advocate for students," school district interim superintendent Mike Hyatt said.

"During the mass shooting in Las Vegas we lost one of our staff members," he told employees. Survivors included Ms Romero's husband and children.

Police administrator was off duty

Rachael Parker, a police records technician, was shot and died in hospital.

Ms Parker was off duty when attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival. "She was employed with the Manhattan Beach Police Department for 10 years and will be greatly missed," the department said.

Nurse died saving wife

Sonny Melton, a nurse, died in the shooting, according to his employer, the Henry County Medical Centre in Paris, Tennessee.

His wife, Dr Heather Melton, an orthopaedic surgeon was with him when shots were fired. Dr Melton said her husband "saved my life and lost his".

She says her husband was the most kind-hearted, loving man she ever met.

Irish Independent

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