Sheriff calls for more protection of fuel tanks targeted by Las Vegas shooter

Updated October 10, 2017 - 6:40 pm

Two large jet fuel tanks near Mandalay Bay “need another layer of protection” in the wake of the deadly mass shooting outside the Strip resort on Oct. 1, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Tuesday.

The Review-Journal first reported last week that the shooter fired at the 43,000-barrel tanks from his Mandalay Bay room, striking and penetrating one of the tanks, but causing no fire or explosion.

“They’re going to have to develop some sort of shielding mechanism to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future,” Lombardo said in a wide-ranging interview about the mass shooting with the newspaper’s editorial board. “I think we have to act on it.”

Lombardo said the gunman may have tried to create an explosion or diversion when he fired at the tanks before he sprayed the crowd of 22,000 at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival east of Mandalay Bay. Fifty-eight people were killed and nearly 500 were injured, and the shooter later killed himself.

Last week, County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said she would seek a security review of the jet fuel tanks the shooter targeted. Several other federal and county elected officials, including newly appointed Commissioner Jim Gibson, whose district includes Mandalay Bay, did not return phone calls last week seeking comment.

The tanks, which provide fuel to nearby private aviation companies, sit on property owned by McCarran International Airport.

Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said he talked to Rosemary Vassiliadis, the airport’s director, about the tanks on Monday.

He said Vassiliadis told him she was contacting an “individual” who had previously evaluated the tanks.

“They have someone,” he said. “I’m leaving it in her hands. We continue in Clark County to take all precautions to protect our citizens and our tourists.”

McCarran officials last week confirmed the Review-Journal’s report on the shooter’s targeting of the tanks, which are about 1,100 feet from the Las Vegas Village venue, where the festival was held. Officials said jet fuel is hard to ignite.

Mike Boyd, a Colorado-based aviation consultant said Tuesday that a rifle-caliber bullet, even with a pyrotechnic charge, would not be powerful enough to blow up a jet fuel tank.

In a statement released late Tuesday, airport spokesman Chris Jones said Lombardo “has not contacted the Department of Aviation with any concerns. Given that, we cannot address whatever points he may have raised with the Review-Journal earlier today. As more information from this investigation is made available, it will be evaluated and we will take action where appropriate.”

“One round penetrated Tank 202, which was partially filled with jet fuel,” the airport said in a statement released last week. “A second round was found lodged within the same tank’s outer steel shell, and did not penetrate. This tank was subsequently evaluated by experts who found no evidence of smoke nor fire.”

The tank was being drained and will be reinspected and repaired, Jones said.

Several airplane hangars belonging to prominent corporations are near the tanks, which are operated by Swissport Fueling, the company that runs the jet fuel operations for the airport.

Stephen Paddock, the 64-year-old shooter from Mesquite, had broken two windows in his 32nd-floor Mandalay Bay suite, one in line with the concert site and the other with a direct view of the fuel tanks, a knowledgeable source told the Review-Journal last week.

Jones said McCarran’s fuel storage system meets all structural and safety requirements set by the National Fire Protection Association.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter.

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