British Troopers Ross Woodward, Chris May and Stuart Finlay planned on a night of drinking and gambling in Las Vegas to blow off some steam following six weeks of rigorous training alongside their American counterparts at Fort Irwin, California.
The trio — all members of the 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards — paused for a moment when they heard the sound of gunfire echoing down the Strip on Sunday.
At first, they thought it could have been fireworks. Perhaps it was a nearby shooting range.
“There was a long pause before the next round came, and we knew it was gunfire,” May, 24, said during a phone interview from Fort Irwin, located about 180 miles from Las Vegas.
The young men scrambled down a pedestrian bridge and headed into the Tropicana, where they were overwhelmed by waves of panicked people running, screaming and looking for a place to hide from a hail of bullets that ended 59 lives and wounded nearly 500 others.
Nearby, Trooper Dean Priestly said that he was hanging out at Hooters Hotel with Troopers James Astbury and Zak Davidson when they saw a rush of people running through the entrance, looking for cover.
The six fresh-faced troopers were just trained for war and willingly jumped in to assist during the chaotic moments immediately following the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.
“When we got there, our training just kicked in,” said Finlay, 25.
The confusion got May separated from the group, but Woodward and Finlay managed to stick together.
Woodward saw a man who was shot in the back and struggling to breathe. The 23-year-old trooper used a towel to apply direct pressure on the wound, urging the man to relax and stay calm.
“I held his hand as he passed away,” Woodward said.
He went on to save three people, including a woman who was also shot in the back.
“I kept light pressure on her back and told her that I was going to help her,” Woodward said. “I kept talking and reassured her that I wouldn’t leave her side.”
Nearby, Finlay said he helped a young woman who also suffered a gunshot wound in the back, and another with a leg injury. In both cases, he applied firm pressure to keep the victims from bleeding out. He then flagged down a car, asking the driver to take the women to a hospital.
“I just wanted to help as many people as I could and deal with their injuries one at a time,” Finlay said.
Separated from his friends, May said he helped care for five people, including a man suffering from a gunshot wound to his arm and a woman shot in the ankle. With so many people running past, pleading for help, May said he wishes that he could have done more.
“I’ve never seen so many scared people,” May said. “Everyone just wanted to get away.”