'We thought it was fireworks': Injured Phoenix woman recounts horrific scene in Vegas

Tanya Groff said she was "really,really" lucky to be alive.

Tanya Groff said she's been crying all morning.

She arrived in Las Vegas Friday with friends and family for a weekend full of country music at the Route 91 Harvest music festival. It was supposed to be a fun weekend -- one that had the possibility of sparking tears of joy as some of the biggest names in country music took the stage.

But come Monday, Groff was crying for a whole different reason. She arrived back home in Phoenix after having bullet fragments removed from her leg.

"It was really scary," Groff said as she recounted events from the night before from a wheelchair at Sky Harbor.

A gunman had opened fire from his 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino as Jason Aldean performed below.

Officials said the gunman, identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, was found dead in his room, but not before killing at least 58 and wounding 515 more.

Groff, who was near the back as Aldean performed, said as the rounds started to go off, they thought it was fireworks.

"I remember seeing Jason Aldean run off stage," Groff said. "I think that's when everyone started to realize it was serious. Somebody jumped on stage and said 'everyone run!' 

Everyone took off, but nobody really knew what was happening.

"No one knew where it was coming from, everyone was looking around," Groff said. "No one could figure out where it was. I think that was the big confusion."

More rounds came followed by screams. She said six or seven shots rang out and then rapid fire. Her sister's boyfriend was shot in the arm.

Groff was hit with bullet fragments in her leg. She was told the bullet probably came off the ground. The metal fragments had to be taken out at a hospital.

"I think I felt it, but I wasn't sure what happened, she said. "So I felt it and got up and started running."

Eventually she realized she couldn't run. Groff said she was trampled on "pretty hard" and separated from her family and friends.

But in a time of horrific tragedy - people came together. The paramedics, other first-responders, and hospital personnel worked hard to save lives and keep others safe. Groff called it "unbelievable."

"I can't even tell you how many people stopped to ask me if I needed help," she said. Or they put my leg up or they were trying to take the fragments out of my leg. I'm just so thankful for them."

Groff had been hopping when someone came to help with a chair and started wheeling her back to an ambulance.

Four other girls with similar injuries were in her ambulance to a hospital.

"I'm still in shock, being at the hospital was really hard," she said. "Seeing people with their injuries and seeing people who had passed from their injuries was really hard."  

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Groff was discharged around 4:15 a.m. Monday morning and immediately tried to call "everyone," she said. She was able to see her dad before she got in an ambulance and said everyone was OK and safe.

She was able to catch her morning flight back home to Phoenix. 

"I was really, really lucky," she said.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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