February 6, 2018 - 4:26 pm
Updated February 6, 2018 - 5:04 pm
At least three public bus drivers just happened to be working their usual routes on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip when a hail of bullets rained down just after 10 p.m. on Oct. 1. Another driver, unaware of the tragedy, transformed his bus into an oversized ambulance for those wounded at the Route 91 Harvest festival.
Footage from bus surveillance cameras obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal revealed how quick-thinking drivers ferried their passengers to safety amid the chaotic mix of gunfire, speeding emergency vehicles and panicked concertgoers seeking refuge.
All the drivers humbly said they were only doing their jobs, but they added that surviving the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history has made them more aware of their surroundings.
‘You don’t have time to hesitate’
Natascha Brooks started the night in a lighthearted mood as passengers boarded her bus parked just outside Las Vegas Village.
Jason Aldean is heard crooning at the concert venue when a downtown-bound rider naively asks when Fremont Street closes.
“Fremont’s open all night” the driver says with a laugh.
With a few minutes to spare before her break ended, Brooks was eating a snack and scrolling through her cellphone when shots rang out from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay.
“It just sounded like rounds going 150 mph,” Brooks recalled during a recent interview at the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada’s bus operations center.
Surveillance footage shows Metropolitan Police Department officers running past the bus as a handful of passengers board. Moments later, Brooks ordered the riders to duck down.
Brooks used her cellphone to call the dispatch center, reporting that she couldn’t move the bus due to gunfire. The dispatcher told her to stay put, but Brooks had other ideas.
Brooks deftly made her way to the driver’s seat, put the bus in gear and headed north on the Strip.
When she stopped at Tropicana Avenue, Brooks broke into heavy sobs, allowing the weight of the moment to sink in.
“Nobody knows what it feels like to go through something like that. But when you’re driving and you have passengers, you don’t have time to hesitate,” said Brooks.
“It’s a last-minute impulse because your life and everybody else’s life is in danger,” she said. “To have to relive the sounds over and over again is a lifetime trauma that’s going to take a while to get over.”
‘Go, go, go’
Not knowing what was going on outside, Kuna went back to the driver’s seat and continued down Las Vegas Boulevard. Moments later, he made a U-turn at Four Seasons Drive and headed back north on the Strip.
Police cruisers were already pulling up to Las Vegas Village, where Kuna briefly parked. The driver looked out his bus door and watched several people run past.
“In my case, I think ignorance was bliss, because I kind of knew what was going on, but I really didn’t,” Kuna recalled.
Surveillance footage provided by Keolis Transportation, a contractor for the RTC, shows Kuna closing the bus door and trying to pull out, but his path is blocked by a swarm of people running from the concert venue.
A woman shrieked and frantically pounded on the bus, begging Kuna to open the door.
She jumped on, followed by another 40 to 50 people.
“Get on the bus, guys,” Kuna ordered. “Come on. Go, go, go.”
A handful of passengers ducked behind seats. Others sat in the aisle as Kuna drove about 30 mph up the Strip.
Kuna stopped at Tropicana Avenue and called dispatch. An operator told him to unload the passengers, and he complied.
“Had I known what was actually going on, I would’ve made a U-turn and gone to get more of them,” Kuna said. “We had no idea what was going on, so it’s kind of hard to look back on. You just do what you have to do at the moment.”
Gunfire just started to break out as Shiree Anderson pulled her bus up to Las Vegas Village — right behind Brooks.
“It’s a shootout,” a woman on the bus shouted.
Anderson slammed the door and switched off the interior lights.
“I didn’t want to draw any attention to the bus,” Anderson explained.
Surveillance footage shows Anderson attempting to leave, but her bus was parked too close behind Brooks. Passengers pleaded for her to leave as shots are fired in the background.
Anderson told the riders to “get down.” Rather than wait, she shifted the bus in reverse, drove around Brooks and headed north toward Tropicana Avenue.
“Looking back, the shooter didn’t really have a target for the buses,” Anderson said. “We were close, but not that close. The people who were at the concert have to deal with so much more.”
‘Maybe God was with me’
The gunman had stopped firing by the time Antonio McLandau navigated the curve from Koval Lane to Reno Avenue. The driver was clearly annoyed by crowds of people blocking his path just before 10:30 p.m.
“I just assumed that everybody was drunk or inebriated,” Landau said.
Surveillance footage shows several smaller vehicles making U-turns while pickup trucks speed away with passengers in the rear bed. McLandau’s bulky bus was stuck behind a line of police cars blocking Reno, just south of Las Vegas Village.
McLandau hailed a Metro police officer and asked how to get out.
“I want you here,” the officer said, “in case we need to get people out of here, OK? There’s lots of people with gunshots, OK?”
McLandau agreed and waited.
By 11 p.m., he was asked to transport people to the hospital. McLandau opted for Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center because he believed it was the easiest to access.
Keolis Transportation did not provide footage of wounded men and women boarding McLandau’s bus.
The footage picks up again at 11:10 p.m. during the long, quiet ride to the hospital. No one cried, but a few chatted. Others called their families as the bus rumbled toward the east valley hospital.
McLandau didn’t say a word during the 15-minute ride. He remained calm, never driving faster than 40 mph.
Knowing his bus wouldn’t make it to the emergency room drop-off area, McLandau pulled up to the hospital’s main entrance.
“All right, guys,” he said wearily — one of the few phrases he uttered all night.
“I have no idea why I was so calm,” McLandau recalled. “Maybe God was with me.”