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October marks the anniversary of Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas — the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Above, Anne and Robert Archambeault, who live in Dripping Springs, pose for a photo at the festival on Oct. 1, 2017. Below, country music superstar Jason Aldean performs at the event. The shooting occurred during his music set. Photos courtesy of Anne Archambeault

‘It was pure chaos’: Area woman recalls deadliest mass shooting in US

Saturday, October 15, 2022

It was supposed to be a night of fun and musical entertainment.

Country music superstar Jason Aldean was wrapping up his performance at the annual Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas — the time,  10:05 p.m.

A short 10 minutes later 58 attendees lie dead on the ground — two others died later from their wounds — in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

As the fifth anniversary is remembered this October, Anne Archambeault, insurance associate for Rollo Insurance in Dripping Springs, was there to recall the horrific series of events that unfolded that night as a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, at concert goers below.

“I was with my boyfriend at the time — now husband — Robert Archambeault. Jason Aldean was playing, he was the last performer of the night,” she said. “We were about six rows back from the stage and [Aldean] was on the catwalk that had fences around it, to protect the singers.”

The pair was on the left side of the stage when they heard what sounded like someone throwing “black cat” firecrackers.

“Everyone around us was saying that it was not cool, and it scared us. Aldean then moved to the regular stage and continued singing,” she said. “Suddenly, people started screaming ‘active shooter.’  The flood lights were turned on making us all targets.”

She said Robert threw her to the ground and laid on top of her.

“I couldn’t imagine what was happening and told Robert to get off me, he was hurting my leg,” she said. “As I was laying there — I looked over to my right and a girl had been shot and was covered in blood and people were screaming.”

Archambeault said her mind couldn’t process what she was seeing, thinking it was red paint.

“Robert, an army veteran, saved my life,” she said. “He grabbed me and told me after the next round of shooting we were going to run for cover. He grabbed me by my purse that was wrapped around my neck and pulled me. I was frozen in fear and as we were running a girl I had spoken with and gotten to know was shot.”

She said they dove behind some makeshift fencing that was covered in black wrapping.

“We ran and hid behind cars and thought the shooter was on the ground as people kept getting shot.  It was pure chaos, and I didn’t think that we were going to live,” Archambeault said. “As we sheltered behind a sedan the man next to me got shot in the neck and was screaming while holding his hand over his wound.  We made it to some dumpsters but were continually getting shot at, so we kept moving.”

She found out later the shooter was trying to blow up a nearby gas tank.

“There were bullets lodged in the tank, but it never blew,” she said. “We ran down a road with eight-10 other people and it came to a dead end. Some people turned around, I just stood there thinking, ‘this is it; we are going to die.’”

Archambeault said they had no clue he was shooting from the hotel window.

“The men with us held up the bottom of the wire fence so we could crawl underneath it,” she said. “This was the airport. We ran through and went into one of the maintenance offices. One of the guys broke the window with this fist and cut his hand and arm badly.  The guys told us to grab anything we could to defend ourselves and hide as we thought the shooter was chasing us.”

She said Robert tried to talk to the airport security because he was screaming at us.

“He told him what had happened and that we weren’t of the mind to be messed with,” Archambeault said.  “We were trying to help those that had been shot. A man with a gunshot to his leg was with us and someone gave him their belt and we triaged the situation as best as we could. He kept talking about losing his mom and didn’t know where she was.”

She said airport security let them go to the Caesar Palace private airplane hangar and gave them water.  Again, she described the scene as complete chaos, most of them covered in blood and in shock and disbelief.

“They finally came and got us and loaded us on a bus” Archambeault said. “We all had to come out with our hands up as we were loaded onto buses and taken to the basketball center.  They searched us as we went into the center, and they had the SWAT team checking the stadium. The chief of police spoke to us and asked us to fill out our statements. He told us they were still looking for two additional shooters.”

She said they started clearing out hotels on the strip and bringing people into the stadium.

“You had drunk people laughing and not knowing what had just happened; it was ridiculous,” she said. “They asked us for our phones as evidence. I did not give up my phone as I wanted to be able to call my children.”

She said they finally told them they were free to go.

“It was freezing outside, and we were all in shock” Archambeault said. “Robert got us an Uber, but people were stealing them.  The media was there but the last thing I wanted to do was talk to the TV crews.  A college student offered to give us a ride and dropped us off by the MGM because the roads were all closed. We went into the gas station to try to get some coffee and warm up.”

At the gas station Archambeault said a fight broke out.

“I was so done and just wanted to go to my room. There had been another shooting at the Motel 6 or Super 8 Hotel near-by,” she said” Robert decided we were going to run to the MGM and beg for them to let us in.

“We ran across the road and there was more shooting. We dove behind the parking garage wall and were wondering ‘what the heck,’ the shooter was dead, why are there more gunshots,” Archambeault added. “It was terrifying.  We finally made it inside and they let us up to our room.”

Archambeault said she feels beyond blessed that she made it out alive and feels awful for the families of those that did not.

“Robert saved my life,” Archambeault said. “He was trained in the military for these situations, and I would not have been able to move, yet run. This experience has changed my life. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t forget how lucky I was.”

Archambeault has many unanswered questions and remains angry at the Mandalay Bay.

“Who threw the fireworks,” she asked. “Was it someone in the concert to distract everyone while he broke the windows?  How could they let him take up tons of cases of ammunition with the service elevator and not get his room cleaned?  How were there multiple sets of fingerprints found in the room and yet there was only one shooter?  Why were people’s posts removed from Facebook and phones erased? Why was there more shooting after the gunman died?  I know that these questions will never be answered.”

To this day she Archambeault said she still will not go to a festival or concert.

“I try to always locate the exit at places that I go to,” she said. “I am more aware of my surroundings and the tall buildings, security at places, etc. I have had a lot of counseling, acupuncture, etc. but will not forget that day where I truly thought that I was going to die.”

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