A young Donegal couple escaped the Las Vegas gun attack when they changed plans to attend the music festival where 58 people were killed and more than 500 were injured.
Louise Meehan from Dungloe and Damien Barron from Inishowen were on a holiday of a lifetime in the US and had been planning to attend the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on Sunday when they made a last-minute change of plan.
The festival was attacked by 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, who fired hundreds of rounds of ammunition at festival-goers from a floor of a nearby hotel in what has become the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
Louise and Damien were suffering from jet lag and decided to stay in their room at the MGM Grand and have an early night rather than attend the event. The hotel is not far from the scene of the shooting.
As word of the shooting broke at home in Ireland, relatives rang hospitals and police stations looking for them.
Frantic hours trying to get in touch
Louise’s stepfather, Billy McNamara, said the family spent four frantic hours on Monday trying to get in touch with the couple.
Speaking to the Donegal Democrat, he said they eventually got through to the hotel. “We were just so glad to hear them,” he said. “They are both big country and western fans and they had been planning to go to the festival. They had been to the Grand Canyon and Damien was not feeling too well. But they were blessed not to go.
“We were just delighted to hear from them as we had spent four hours ringing and trying to contact them - ringing hospitals, police stations and the hotel. The hotel was going room to room doing a head count. We eventually got through to security people at the hotel and then the front desk, and they put us through to their room.
“They could see everything - they were looking down on it.”
Describing the events as “a nightmare” Louise posted on social media to thank those who got in touch out of concern for their safety, and to express condolences to those caught up in the shooting.
“Such a sad end to an otherwise amazing first leg of the holiday of a lifetime,” she said. “We went to Vegas especially to go to the Route 91 Harvest Festival but whatever God or angels we have watching over us up there stopped us.
“We enjoyed every minute of our four days here and last night between jet lag and overeating, decided to stay in our room and go to bed early. For hundreds of others that were not as lucky, our thoughts and prayers are with them all.”