The tragedy in Las Vegas came close to home for several Flathead County residents who happened to be in attendance at the Route 91 Harvest music festival Sunday when a depraved killer opened fire on the crowd from the 32nd floor of a nearby casino hotel.
While dozens of people lay dying, hundreds were wounded and thousands were in shock or panic, a number of people in the crowd did what they were trained to do — as medics, EMTs, soldiers or police: They went to the aid of those in need.
Edward Prince of Olney, a six-year Army veteran, was on an R&R mission to Vegas, enjoying a few days with military buddies. When the unimaginable happened, Prince and his friend Austin Depiazza ran toward the concert venue that was being shot up in order to rescue anyone they could help and to apply first aid.
Whitefish philanthropist Mike Goguen and his wife Jamie Stephenson were attending the concert when the shots rang out, and stayed behind to help minister to the wounded. Goguen is the benefactor of the Two Bear Air rescue helicopter service, and he has received training as part of the rescue team. Stephenson said that she and Goguen carried dozens of people to safety. “You don’t freak out,” she wrote. “You ... just help.”
We don’t know if everyone would have the presence of mind to stay calm and helpful in a crisis, but we are grateful for those who do, and especially to the folks who live in our own community and are role models for us all.
A hurricane hero, too
Another local hero has been rescuing dozens of people from a tragedy of another kind.
U.S. Coast Guard pilot Justin Pacheco fearlessly aided in rescue efforts following a series of three powerful hurricanes that pounded the Southeast this summer.
The Whitefish native thought nothing of flying into the “dark swirling wall” of Hurricane Harvey, where he and his crew saved more than 50 people from the floodwaters in Texas. A few days later he geared up for more dangerous missions in Florida following Hurricane Irma, and then Hurricane Maria in the Caribbean.
We’re proud to have heroes like Pacheco representing the Flathead, and grateful for their service and willingness to put their own lives on the line to save others.