It’s hard to imagine what being on the ground at the horrific Las Vegas shootings in October 2017 was like. But for ex-marine Taylor Winston, the only course of action was obvious: help as many people as possible. And to do that, he had to steal a truck. So when the owner of the vehicle got in touch a few days later, he was probably ready for the worst.
29-year-old Taylor Winston hails from San Diego, California, where he’s now employed by a country music website as a designer. But from 2006 to 2011, he was part of the U.S. military and served as a sergeant in Iraq. And he’s also a big fan of country music. So it’s no surprise he found himself at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in 2017.
The country music festival has been an annual staple of the Las Vegas Village since 2014. And in 2017, it also happened to be the scene of the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history. Indeed, on October 1, gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd of 22,000 festival-goers, killing 58 people and injuring 546 more.
Positioned up on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, 64-year-old Paddock used modified rifles to fire hundreds of rounds into the crowd below. An hour after the shooting finished, authorities found Paddock in his hotel room – but the killer had already shot himself.
In the aftermath of the horrific incident, people were understandably struggling to make sense of what had happened. “It was gunshots and everyone was running,” Oklahoma resident Austin Wayne told The Independent. “You didn’t know what to do or where it was coming from. Everybody was scared, running, getting down. Words can’t even explain it.”
Winston, meanwhile, was in the heart of that confusion. At first, he even assumed what he was hearing was actually fireworks. But when people began screaming and bodies started dropping, he realized something was terribly wrong. Along with his friend Jenn Lewis then, he fled the scene – but he didn’t run away completely. Instead, he found a nearby pickup truck – with the keys still inside.
As he hopped into the truck, it’s clear that only one thought crossed Winston’s mind: helping the people he’d just witnessed being gunned down. He sped back to the scene of the tragedy, and began helping as many wounded as possible into the truck.
Along with a firefighter and a trauma nurse, Winston worked tirelessly to prioritize those injured who needed the most help. Together, they set up a triage to figure out which cases were most pressing, and once the truck was full, Winston headed for the hospital.
Once he arrived at the nearby Desert Springs Hospital Centre, he worked with staff to unload the truck of the wounded concert-goers and headed back for more. Driving as fast as possible, he made sure the injured were keeping pressure to their wounds, to avoid them bleeding out. But there were few signs of life from some.
After the second trip, Winston headed back once more to the festival. By then, however, the ambulances had finally arrived to take care of everyone else. So instead, Winston took the pick-up truck and parked it outside a nearby bar.
After his heroic actions, people praised the veteran online. “Taylor Winston is a total badass and hero!” Lauren Wardell wrote. “My roomie saved dozens during the Vegas attack. Pretty amazing what he did.” Another, meanwhile, wrote that Winston was “an outstanding example of what we should all strive to be in times of crisis.”
With the truck only able to fit about 10 to 15 people in at a time, there was no way Winston could fit in everyone who needed assistance. “Probably one of the hardest parts was leaving everyone behind that I couldn’t fit in who were still critically injured,” he told CNN at the time.
After the ordeal, Winston had aimed to take the truck back on the next Monday. But when he went back to pick it up, it was gone. He assumed it had been towed due to being covered in blood – but he still had the keys. Then, three days later, he received a text from someone claiming to be the truck’s owner.
“Hey Taylor told you might have the keys to my truck??” The text read. “All I [want] is the key. Other [than] that it’s all water under the bridge to me.” Thankfully then, it seemed he wasn’t angry that Winston had stolen his truck.
Instead, the vehicle’s owner was simply grateful that Winston had been on the scene to help people. Indeed, he finished the text by asking, “How’s the person you hauled doing?” Clearly, he was unaware just how many people Winston had tried to save that fateful night.
In his response text, then, Winston wrote, “I took about 30 critically injured to the hospital. Your truck was extremely important saving those people’s lives.” Unfortunately, however, he couldn’t confirm just whether every single life had been saved.
“I don’t know if they all made it,” he texted back. Indeed, at the time, Winston told The Independent, “There’s a few that I don’t think probably made it. They were pretty limp when we were pulling them out of the truck, but they still had a pulse, so I’m hoping for the best.”
Whether or not Winston managed to save everyone he took to the hospital, there’s no denying that he made a massive difference to the death toll that night. And the truck owner’s understanding nature just topped it off. One user on The Independent, for instance, wrote, “Two good guys!”
Another user, Izzy, reflected on the wholesome exchange between the two and noted that another good deed could have been done. “Seems fair enough from both sides of the conversation,” wrote Izzy. “I hope a local car valeting company stepped in to help the owner clean up.”
When that text came through, it could easily have gone either way. Luckily for all involved then, the truck owner realized just how heroic and selfless Winston had been. Indeed, his story is a shining moment in an otherwise terrible tragedy – will surely restore your faith in humanity.