By Rey Garcia
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA–Among the heroes during the Oct. 1 carnage in Las Vegas were two Filipino Uber drivers Catherine Berney and Vina Alibangbang, who saved the lives of several victims wounded by a gunman who fired from the 32nd floor of a hotel into an outdoor concert, killing 58 people.
Berney said that she just dropped passengers at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino at 10 p.m. Sunday when she heard a volley of gunshots.
“At first, I thought it was just fireworks from a concert being held just across the hotel,” Berney said. She ignored the blast sound and continued to drive towards the concert area along Koval Street to look for her next rider.
“When I started seeing wounded people running from the concert area to different directions, that was the only time I realized [what was happening]” Berney said.
In that instance, two young female victims with blood splattered on their shirts thumped her window crying for help. Berney said that she immediately opened the doors of her Toyota Siena van being used for Uber to let the two come enter.
As she was about to leave, she spotted two more female victims needing help and hurriedly picked them up along the same road as bullets continued to rain over the concert area.
Berney sped away from the scene and brought the four victims to a safer place near the McCarran International Airport, where she sought the help of other Filipino rides-hare driver identified as Jun Tanada, who volunteered to transport the victims to a nearby hospital.
“She saved our lives and we will be forever thankful for what she has done for us,” one of the victims said as they arrived at the hospital.
Alibangbang tearfully recalled what happened that tragic night when she rescued and saved the lives of six victims.
She said that she was few blocks away from the concert area where people dashed towards Reno Street for safety. As she arrived, she saw a man with gunshot wounds being carried over by his shoulder by several female companions who were pleading for help.
“I let them enter my Uber car not realizing there were six of them but they were able to squeeze in my mid-sized vehicle,” she said.
She said that there were Las Vegas Metro policemen and first-responders in that same place helping victims, and she was then told by a police officer to follow the patrol car in front of her which was heading to nearby Sunrise Hospital, where most the victims were transported for medical treatment.
Moments after dropping the victims to the hospital, Alibangbang went to the Las Vegas Convention Center and she volunteered to provide assistance to hundreds of victims and evacuees affected by the mass shooting.
Alibangbang said that earlier that day, she had been picking up and dropping off riders at the concert site.
“My heart was shattered in pieces when I later found out that one of those young kids I brought to the concert was among those who died in the incident,” Alibangbang said in tears.
Authorities here confirmed 59 dead, including the gunman, 527 injured and 45 victims still remain in critical conditions.
Hospital doctors said some of the gunshot wounds from high-powered weapons were so severe that they required more medical procedures while many people suffered injuries from the stampede.
Hundreds of volunteers including blood donors flocked to local hospitals and several evacuation shelters, to lend a hand.
The Philippine Consul General to Las Vegas Adelio Cruz confirmed that two Filipino-Americans were among the 500 people who were injured during the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
In a text message, DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said one has been already discharged from the hospital while the other is still recovering.
Base on a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Arthur Andrade Jr., a Filipino-American, is still confined at the Aunrise Hospital and Medical Center with a gunshot wound in the stomach.
Andrade and his girlfriend were on a double date at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival when Las Vegas resident Stephen Paddock, 64, fired at the crowd from his hotel window on the 32nd floor at the Mandalay Bay Hotel.