Las Vegas shooting: Northern Ireland couple dived for cover as shots rang out
A Northern Ireland mum-of-three has told how she feared she would never see her children again during Sunday night's terrifying mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Cafe owner Heather McCrudden (49) was eating dinner at Denny's restaurant on the famous Strip during a birthday trip with husband Uel (53) when shots rang out, forcing diners to flee for cover.
Only 40 minutes earlier the McCruddens had been near the location of the shooting, but decided to move further up the Strip as they viewed the attractions.
A gunman opened fire on guests at the Route 91 Music Festival, claiming at least 58 lives and leaving hundreds injured.
Heather and Uel, from Larne in Co Antrim, told the Belfast Telegraph of the mayhem as diners raced to the back of the restaurant and sheltered under tables for protection.
"I think we're still in shock at the minute," Heather said from the couple's hotel, which is located a mile from the Las Vegas Strip.
"We keep thinking 'what if?', as we had been down at the MGM Grand earlier and were going to eat down there before we changed our minds.
"After the shots rang out panic broke out, and everyone ran to the back of the restaurant and got under the tables or took shelter in the bathroom.
"Seeing grown men crying and running towards a bathroom to take cover, that's when the reality hits you.
"At one point I thought I would never see my kids again.
"At the time we were just going through the motions, and I was thinking: 'What if the gunmen came up the stairs, would you be able to get out of the way, or would you just freeze?' Uel and I took cover under the table with another girl who was having palpitations. All of the hotels and restaurants were in lock-down, so we were in there for a couple of hours.
"The Strip was full of security officers, police, army and sniffer dogs.
"We didn't know if there was more than one shooter - there could have been more."
Her husband, who owns a furniture shop, said the pair initially feared the incident was a terror attack similar to those which have occurred in London and Paris.
"We heard four or five pops of gunfire and everyone jumped up and ran to the back of the cafe - staff, everybody - sprinting down and into the toilet area," he said.
"That wasn't big enough, so we went under the tables. I was thinking: 'Oh my God, this can't be happening!'
"Heather was comforting a wee girl, there was a young lad who was just beside himself, it was absolute mayhem. It was a hairy experience.
"The owner said everywhere was in lockdown, and the police had told him to keep everyone inside. He closed the door and was looking up and down the strip from the balcony.
"We also heard that there was 'activity' in the building right beside ours, which was scary.
"We stayed in there for an hour-and-a-half to two hours. There was no mission that we were going out that door."
After the lockdown ended the couple cautiously made their way back out onto the Strip to hail a taxi to their hotel.
"We weren't able to get a taxi from directly outside as they weren't allowed up that far, so we went to the Venetian and were able to one from there. I've never been so relieved to get into a car in my life," Uel said.