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‘You saved my daughter’s life’: Puget Sound first responders recall Vegas horror, humanity

AUBURN, Wash. – For the first time, we’re hearing from Western Washington first responders who were in the line of fire during the shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 and injured hundreds.

They didn’t just survive the shooting; some were also able to save lives under incredible circumstances.

“We all became one that night,” said Dean McAuley, a firefighter and paramedic with the Valley Regional Fire Authority, which is based in Auburn.

“It was like something out of a war movie,” he said.

“He doesn’t like being called a hero, but it's just incredible what he did,” said corrections officer Matt Smith.

Smith, McAuley and two more men reunited at the VRFA offices on Wednesday. They were all at the outdoor concert in Las Vegas Sunday night when a gunman perched high up in a room in the Mandalay Bay Hotel opened fire hundreds of yards away.

“I grabbed the girl next to me and we dove under a barbecue just to get out of harm’s way,” said Smith.

“I never felt like I was going to die,” said McAuley. “That feeling never hit me.”

In the chaos, McAuley spotted a 16-year-old girl on the ground bleeding from a gunshot wound. He ran to her aid while the gunfire continued. That's when she grabbed his cellphone to call her dad.

“She was so calm and cool and collective,” said McAuley. “She just said, 'I’d been shot and I’m with a firefighter and I’m going to be OK.'”

McAuley loaded her into the back of a stranger’s car and rushed her to safety but he then returned to the shooting scene to help other victims.  That’s when he received a text message from the teen’s father.

“The text said, 'You saved my daughter’s life. Can you please call me?'” recalled McAuley. “In that moment there was a bright spot – it seemed like a really bad dream – but it seemed like a bright spot for me.”

McAuley and his friends believe a higher power placed them at the Las Vegas concert to help as many people as possible.

“It’s very surreal,” said Smith. “It was a massive event we were a part of and it will probably stick with us for the rest of our lives.”

The group of first responders agree; what happened in Las Vegas was horrifying, but it shouldn’t let fear keep people from going to concerts or doing what they love.

“I got to see one person at their worst but I got to see and witness humanity at its best -- people helping each other and going into action,” said McAuley.