Former Snohomish County Firefighter commandeered ambulance to save Las Vegas shooting victims

As a former firefighter and an EMT in Snohomish County, Scott Pettersen thought he'd seen nearly every kind of emergency.

But Pettersen says nothing could have prepared him for the challenges he faced in a hail of gunfire in Las Vegas Sunday night. He was suddenly focused on getting his girlfriend and a family with small children away from the concert grounds to find a place where they could survive.

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"We had no idea there was one shooter and he was in a 32nd story window shooting down," he said. "We all thought shooters were everywhere."

Desperate for shelter, they found a Las Vegas ambulance without a crew inside.

"I ran to this aid car, and with my background, I know they're always unlocked," he said. "So I told the family with the kids to get in the back and I shut the side door. I opened the back doors, and the second I opened them, there was already four people wounded there, waiting."

Pettersen guessed the ambulance's crew was likely working on victims in the grounds. So while bullets were still flying, he went to work on people running to the ambulance for help.

"I grabbed gauze, grabbed bandages and started wrapping a guy up, and another guy came up who was shot in the back, and I started wrapping him," he said. Then two seconds later a woman arrived who was shot in the back of her leg followed by a man with a shoulder wound, followed by a woman with a neck wound. "It didn't stop."

Pettersen lost track of how many he and an off-duty police officer treated. He estimates it could be more than two dozen.

"We ran those cars out of supplies, bandages, everything," he said. "I was ripping bags apart where I found them and I was tying hospital gowns around this lady who was shot in the neck."

Sensing they could be ambushed by gunfire in the ambulance, Pettersen says he tried to find keys and drive the ambulance -- loaded with patients -- to the closest hospital. When he couldn't locate the keys, he and his girlfriend ran into buildings and even tried kicking in doors, hoping to save themselves.

"We ran into this place, and we're head to toe in blood that's not ours," Pettersen said. "Finally, this elderly couple let us in, it was like their 50th reunion. They went to high school together, two couples in one room and we went in there, shut the door behind us, and we both just lost it."

Now, Pettersen hopes to hear if the people he treated are alive. He hopes someday to hear from any one of them on social media.

"The faces, I remember them," Pettersen said. "The guy who was shot in the back, I know exactly what he looks like, and I when I close my eyes that's what I think about. But I can't bring myself to look and see if they're on the (deceased) list. I just can't."