Cory Whitlock, of the Professional Fire Fighters of Nevada, shares cooking safety tips for Thanksgiving.
To view on the FOX5 Vegas website, please click here.
Cory Whitlock, of the Professional Fire Fighters of Nevada, shares cooking safety tips for Thanksgiving.
To view on the FOX5 Vegas website, please click here.
When Joe DiGaetano showed up for his 24-hour shift as a paramedic coordinator at 7 a.m. Sunday morning, he was ready for anything, but expected it to just be another Sunday.
After a typical weekend day of paperwork, answering calls, and making some deliveries, DiGaetano and his team were settling in for the night.
“Everybody winds down around 9 o’clock. We go into the room, we take our boots off,” he told ABC News in an exclusive interview. Several members of the team turned on HBO and started watching a movie.
But at 10:08 p.m., the call came in: Reports of a “mass casualty incident.”
“When my phone rings, for serious calls, it rings differently,” he said.
In less than 60 seconds, he grabbed his radio off the charger and was on his way to the spot where Jason Aldean had just left the stage amid a hail of gunfire.
DiGaetano is an EMS flip coordinator and has worked with Las Vegas Fire and Rescue for 20 years. The vehicle he drives into emergencies is stocked with various medical supplies, from bandages to medications that can “bring someone back to life after they’ve died from smoke inhalation,” he said. He is accustomed to walking into tragedies. He says he switches gears in high-pressure situations.
“You find ways to take emotion out of the emergency because when you show up, they want to make sure that they called the right guy who’s going to fix this, not a guy who’s going to be sad with them and be upset with them. They don’t need that, they’re already there.”
DiGaetano says by the time he arrived at 10:20 p.m., four command centers had already been set up, and he reported to the southern command post at Russell Road and Las Vegas Boulevard.
“When I arrived, the shooting had stopped. It was still I would say a scene of chaos. We didn’t know at any moment, any car driving toward us was that the bad guy getting away, was that a good guy or these people shot,” he said.
Amid the chaos, DiGaetano jumped in and immediately began triaging patients who had arrived at the center. He says when he arrived they immediately started filling the ambulances with the most critically wounded.
“We have a golden hour from the moment the trauma happens, the moment the surgeon gets to do his thing. There’s an hour there where you really have a good chance of keeping these people alive. After that, it really goes down by a significant amount. It’s like falling off a cliff.”
Triage levels were assigned based on criteria like breathing rate, amount of blood lost, pulse rate and consciousness. Decisions were made in moments using a color system.
“’Black’ means you’re deceased, ‘red’ means you’re very critical, ‘yellow’ is you can stay on scene for a minute, and ‘green’ means you’re walking wounded, you have, you know, a sprained ankle, a cut that’s manageable, nothing that’s gonna need an ambulance or a hospital now,” he said.
But making those determinations could be painful for both the paramedic and the patient. “You had to actually tell people with gunshot wounds, ‘You’re not as critical as this person. Wait a minute.’ To them it was the worst thing in their life, and we’re telling them to hold on.
“Within about 20 minutes, we had used up all of the ambulance resources that we had,” said DiGaetano. So he called his battalion chief and called for all the ambulances from Las Vegas County that were available. “I told him, hey, there’s a big event in the county, I’m going to drain your fleet of rescues.”
As the EMS flip coordinator, DiGaetano’s vehicle full of supplies was critical to help the dozens of people with injuries. Around 11 p.m., he was called to the eastern command center, which ran along the eastern fence line of the concert on Reno Avenue.
“We get there and that’s the area where people were coming out. They were jumping over the walls from the venue into the street and into a church across the street,” he said.
He also organized groups of paramedics and armed officers called “force protection teams.” He says people of all stripes, mostly self-reported off-duty servicemen and women, were stepping forward to help.
“Anybody who wanted to help, we would take you. Off-duty firefighters, off-duty cops, civilians from out of town who were off-duty firefighters, they made themselves known. I’m not going to lie, we believed them, we put them to work.
“The initial critical people were being organized and led by the off-duty firefighters and cops. They were actually turning over cattle gates, loading people up and picking up like stretchers and hand carrying them out.”
The force protection teams were dispatched into the concert area to search for more wounded people who had scattered in fear.
“You had people hiding in that church in a parking lot in their cars. You had people hiding in semi trucks, people hiding in the venue, under tables and behind walls and they stayed there for 20 or 30 minutes.”
At about midnight, DiGaetano says he reported to the northern command post, at Tropicana Boulevard and Reno Road, where he says his help was needed taking part in a force protection team himself.
“I was given my team of firefighter paramedics. I was also given a team of patrol and detective officers from Metro who were armored and with their AR-15s — heavy weaponry.”
The team immediately found two people, one with a gunshot to the leg, another with trampling injuries. He instructed his paramedics to administer oxygen and IVs, and they moved on.
After answering 911 calls to the MGM and Fat Burger, he was suddenly called away again.
It was about 1 a.m. and DiGaetano said, “We were given a new assignment by our commander who was told by SWAT that they have four teams they want to send into Mandalay, do a room-by-room search. They want to be able to have us [paramedics] there in case they go into a room and there’s another victim that’s not identifying themselves via radio or cell phone or any other means.”
He said the four teams were each given master keys and were instructed to sweep the entire hotel.
“We went from floor to floor, room by room and literally opened every door in the Mandalay Bay to make sure that entire hotel was safe.”
“Most of the rooms didn’t have anybody in it, but the rooms that did, they identified themselves prior to entering. They get in there. The citizens were very thankful that they got that room searched because everybody was obviously scared.”
He said the four teams took several hours searching every one of the rooms in the hotel, from about the 13th floor all the way up to the Foundation Room on the 62nd floor — skipping the 32nd floor, where Stephen Paddock, the alleged shooter, had shot concertgoers from his room. According to the Mandalay Bay website, there are 3,211 guest rooms in the hotel.
After several hours of canvassing each room of the Mandalay Bay hotel, the teams had completed their assignment by about 5 a.m., Monday morning.
“We got down and demobilized where the northern commander had basically said, ‘That was your last assignment…. You’re free to go.’ I spent that half-hour from 5:00 to 5:30 shaking hands and saying goodbye to the people I just met and/or people I’d worked with and giving hugs.”
As the sky began to lighten, DiGaetano stopped for a coffee on his way home, where he met another officer on her way into work.
“I stopped at Starbucks, and then I actually happen to meet a Metro CSI agent who was just getting on for the day. So I was getting off, she was getting on. I bought her a cup of coffee. We both got grande white mochas,” he said.
She told him “she was actually going to be one of the people who had to take photographs of the people who didn’t make it at the fairgrounds. That was her assignment. She wasn’t looking forward to her day but like all professionals, she was ready for it,” he said. “She went to work and I went home.”
DiGaetano said the night was, by far, the largest mass casualty incident of his career, and he hopes he never gets a call like that again. But he’s proud of his city’s response to the unthinkable tragedy.
“Vegas is an example of strangers stepping up when they weren’t asked to. And if you want an example of what the best of this country is, you should look at the response that Vegas gave. Whether you’re a firefighter, a police officer, a civilian who was enjoying a concert show, everybody did something.”
To view on the ABC News website, please click here.
Off-duty Henderson firefighter Anthony Robone was on the west side of the Route 91 Harvest music festival stage about halfway back in the crowd with his girlfriend, brother and three friends when the shooting started Sunday night.
After the first rounds went off, Robone said he thought it was fireworks but started to crouch down, telling his girlfriend everything was fine.
“The second round went off, and that’s when I just kind of started hovering over her, and it’s like maybe this is gunshots,” Robone said, “and that’s when I heard my brother say, ‘I got hit.’ ”
He turned and saw his brother, UNLV assistant hockey coach Nick Robone, spitting up blood. “So I knew this turned from ‘OK we’re here, but we need treatment and we gotta go,’ ” Robone said during a news conference Tuesday about the firefighter/emergency medical technician response to the shooting.
With the exit in one direction and the medical tent and a possible ambulance at the other, Robone told his close friend, an Army reservist, to stay with his girlfriend and make sure she got out safely.
He and another friend then set out to find medical help for Nick.
“Rounds, they kind of seemed like they never stopped,” Robone said.
They put Nick down behind a police car where others were taking cover but found no ambulances.
“My biggest concern at that time was my brother. He’s my best friend,” Robone said, so they kept going, stopping when they spied a couple of arriving squad cars.
Officers gave them a small first aid kit that had a package of adhesive bandages, and they took plastic wrapping from the package to cover the wound on Nick’s chest, securing it in place with three bandages, he said.
“At this time people started kind of flooding to where the squad cars were, and there were multiple people injured,” including one shot in the neck, he said.
He stayed to help victims while his friend remained with Nick, who was eventually taken to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.
Robone went to the Tropicana seeking to catch a ride on an ambulance to Sunrise when a lockdown was placed on the hotel, and some victims received treatment in hallways, he said. He eventually found a ride to Sunrise so he could be with his brother.
Robone also recounted the outpouring of help concertgoers provided to victims at the scene.
“I can’t stress how awesome the people at this concert were,” he said, citing people using their belts as tourniquets and others keeping pressure on wounds. “There was a lot of selflessness that night.”
To view on the Las Vegas Review-Journal website, please click here.
The brothers met on the concert grounds, just like they had planned.
Nick Robone, an assistant coach for the men’s ice hockey club team at UNLV, arrived after skating in his weekly adult beer league. He had scored tickets to the Route 91 Harvest festival last month, a gift from his parents for his 28th birthday. Nick planned to sell the Sunday pass and spend the evening elsewhere, but he had so much fun Friday and Saturday that he decided to return for the final few acts.
Anthony Robone, 25, made the brief trek from T-Mobile Arena, where he and his girlfriend were watching the Vegas Golden Knights’ final exhibition game, prior to the team’s inaugural season. Like his older brother and current roommate—they recently split the cost of a house south of the Strip, 50-50—-Anthony played roller hockey at UNLV and loved that an expansion NHL team had landed in their hometown. He had been on paramedic duty with the Henderson Fire Department throughout the weekend and was scheduled for another shift Sunday, but called out to celebrate with his brother instead.
“Can you make it?” Nick had asked.
“F— yeah,” Anthony replied.
They arrived around the same time, roughly 8:30 p.m, and met with several others, including Anthony Vignieri Greener, UNLV’s head coach, and William Tufano, an old friend from their youth hockey days. They grabbed drinks at the bar and found a spot to stand, maybe 100 yards from the main stage on the west side of the venue. Across South Las Vegas Boulevard, the golden façade of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino glistened in the night. Not long after, country music star Jason Aldean made his entrance and started to play.
When the first round of bullets hit the crowd, the brothers shrugged aside the noise. Fireworks, they figured, launched somewhere into the sky. They reflexively crouched low upon hearing the next round—pop-pop-pop-pop-pop—but even then, they didn’t quite grasp what was happening. “Babe, it’s not real,” Anthony told his girlfriend, covering her like a human shield. “It’s not real.” The third round thundered mid-sentence.
Then, a voice.
“I got hit.”
Anthony turned. There was Nick on the ground, spitting up blood. “An image I’ll never forget,” Anthony says. From there, instinct took over. He pulled aside the strap of his brother’s tank top and found where the bullet had struck, high on the left chest. No other entry wounds were visible, but there wasn’t time to search.
“I knew we had to get out of there,” he says. “So we went running with him, praying that it was the only hole.”
Along with Tufano, who currently works for a medical care company, Anthony grabbed Nick and headed west. Shots kept ringing overhead. Bodies kept falling to the ground. Nick’s tank top kept turning a deeper shade of red. They ducked behind a squad car with several other parties seeking cover from the gunfire, which was coming from a 32nd floor window at the Mandalay Bay. Anthony searched for the flashing lights of an ambulance, but saw nothing except chaos. “So I said, screw it and picked my brother up,” he says.
They moved northeast, dashing through the dark. Several police cars were parked along East Reno Avenue, but they saw no officers. Anthony looked at Tufano. “We’re going to steal a cop car,” he said, but every door was locked. Finally, further down the road, Anthony spied two officers. He identified himself as a firefighter and requested an ambulance. “And,” Anthony said, “I need any EMS equipment you have.”
Based on the location of the entry wound and the blood still spitting from his brother’s mouth, Anthony feared that Nick had suffered a collapsed lung—or worse. But the officers could only provide a small first-aid kit with Band-Aids and Neosporin. “The kind you can buy at Wal-Mart,” Anthony says. So with Tufano’s assistance, Anthony constructed a makeshift occlusive dressing by removing the thin layer of plastic covering the unopened Band-Aid box and pressing it onto the wound with three bandages.
Nick was awake and alert when the ambulance arrived. Another victim was loaded first, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the neck. Next went Nick. The paramedic told Anthony that they were headed to Sunrise Hospital, less than five miles away. Anthony told Nick that he would see him there soon. He was staying behind to help.
“There was a lot that needed to be done,” Anthony says. “And I knew my brother is a tough m———–. He gave me a nod like, You go handle it.”
They started with roller hockey, joining a local youth club that spent weekends at tournaments in southern California, Arizona and Colorado. Rink space was at a premium, this being the desert and all, but the Robones quickly caught the hockey bug on the ice too. As kids they cheered for the Kings—their father hailed from Los Angeles—and idolized Hall-of-Fame defenseman Rob Blake. Among Anthony’s childhood travel teammates was Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker, the only Las Vegas native to reach the NHL. After the shooting, which killed at least 59 people and injured more than 500, Zucker was among the first to reach out.
Even before Nick enrolled at UNLV in the fall of 2007, his sights had pivoted to coaching. He was a fast defenseman with a thick upper body, equally capable on the power play and penalty kill, but hockey IQ was always his greatest strength. When Nick was a senior at Centennial High, UNLV founded its roller hockey team and asked him to help on the bench. In 2011–12, Nick was named a third-team all-American by the National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association and led UNLV to the national championship game—all while serving as player-coach.
“You could tell that sparked something,” says Anthony, who was his brother’s teammate for two seasons at UNLV. “When I was studying to be a firefighter, I was up at 1 or 2 a.m., reading my textbooks. He was up until 1 or 2 with me, writing up plays and practices and looking at tape. It’s what he wants to do with his life.”
From there, as Anthony puts it, Nick’s life “tumbleweeded” into the profession. He would steer UNLV’s inline program to three straight NCRHA final fours, earn his master’s degree in sports administration online from Western Kentucky, work as a marketing coordinator at the Las Vegas Ice Center, volunteer coach several local youth clubs, and eventually return to his alma mater as an assistant for its club ice hockey team in 2015–16. At the time, the Rebels were “a joke D-3 program,” according to Anthony, who started playing ice hockey at UNLV after Nick graduated. Now they compete in Division I, the highest division of club college hockey—the promotion was announced last November—and began this season 3–1, including an opening-weekend sweep of Arizona State, one of several schools that recently called Nick about coming to work for them.
“He’s always been a leader, a motivator,” Anthony says. “He’s very articulate in the way he does things, very tactical. If he needs someone to do things, he goes about it the right way. He’s not the yeller, not the guy who says, ‘You need to f—— skate, hit harder.’ He’s not going to pound on the bench. He’s an intellect, strategic in what he does.”
As the back doors slammed shut and the ambulance headed for Sunrise, Anthony was wrecked with regret. “I felt like there wasn’t enough closure,” he says. “They left right away. I didn’t get to say bye or I love you or anything. That ate at me the whole time.”
But there was work to be done. They saw off-duty doctors and nurses springing into action, civilians using their belts as makeshift tourniquets, others pulling off their shirts to apply pressure onto wounds. “Everyone helped everyone,” Anthony says. “The selflessness that occurred that night…it makes me proud to live here. It was unreal.”
Along with Tufano, Anthony dashed through the streets to triage victims, grabbing IVs and trauma bandages, loading the wounded into pickup trucks bound for the hospital. He has pronounced people dead on the job before, but this was entirely different; the volume of survivors meant there wasn’t enough room in the ambulances. “Tell a family that we’ll give you a sheet, and you need to stand in this corner and pray over your loved one, there’s nothing we can do,” he says. “We had to do that for a few unfortunately.”
Amid the carnage, Anthony’s mind returned to his brother at Sunrise. “If we don’t get out of here,” he told Tufano, “we’ll be here until 5 a.m.” The opportunity came while under lockdown at Tropicana Las Vegas, where they waited in a hallway with roughly 150 others for the all-clear signal. When an ambulance arrived for a victim who was on the fourth floor with a “superficial” bullet wound in his head, according to Anthony, they offered their assistance to the paramedics and hitched a ride to the hospital.
“You walk into that ER, and I know there are some pictures, there’s blood on the floor, blood on the walls, people screaming,” Anthony says. “If you’ve ever seen any war movies where they walk into a trauma tent and everyone’s wounded, that’s exactly what was going on. But Sunrise did a phenomenal job that night, all hands on deck.”
Nick entered surgery around 2 a.m. and stayed for almost three hours. The bullet didn’t puncture his lung, as Anthony has initially feared, instead wrapping around his muscles before burying itself in his left lat. Two main fragments were removed and given to police for evidence, though smaller pieces of shrapnel remain in his left pectoral. His clavicle was unharmed, his ribs stable and intact, but the velocity of the bullet left his lung badly bruised. He was intubated and sedated for 36 hours but awoke Tuesday.
“The first thing he said was, he was more upset because he had seen some local news articles about him, and he was pissed,” Anthony says. “I walked in the room and was like, ‘Dude, why are you so pissed? You’re alive.’ He said, ‘Dude, 59 people died though.’
“But that’s why he’s a coach. He’s an educator. He’s for his team, his crew. That’s his instincts.”
It’s late Tuesday night now, almost 48 hours after the shooting, as Anthony calls from the ICU at Sunrise. Nick is still there, facing a six-month recovery before his lung function even returns “to semi-normal,” according to his brother, and will remain in the hospital for the foreseeable future to guard against infection. But he’s alert, talking, and might try standing up for the first time soon. He also recently tapped a message into his iPhone and tweeted it out to his 400-some followers:
I wanted to thank everyone for their kind words, love, and generosity. I’m out of surgery and expected to make a full recovery. However, there are others not as fortunate to have the same support system as me and my family. I urge all of you to share the same charitableness and kindness for the rest of the community, victims, and their families as you have for me.
Indeed, the hockey world has marshaled its full strength for their “tough m———–.” A GoFundMe page had raised more than $47,000 as of Wednesday afternoon. The Golden Knights also plan to donate money, says defenseman and year-round Las Vegas resident Deryk Engelland, adding there was talk of the team visiting Robone in the hospital. “That,” Anthony says, “is the brotherhood.”
The UNLV hockey program is still reeling. Several players also attended the concert and are currently receiving trauma counseling from the athletic department, according to general manager Zee Kahn. But it plans to sell t-shirts to benefit the Robone family during its upcoming series against Utah. There was brief talk of postponing the games altogether, but Nick made his wishes clear. When doctors extubated Nick, he promptly told his brother, “Make sure they’re still playing this weekend.”
To view on the Sports Illustrated website, please click here.