Kenny Rogers Impersonator Among Civilian Heroes at Route 91 Harvest Festival
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Richard Hampton is a Kenny Rogers impersonator in Las Vegas, Nev.; he’s also a country music lover. But on Oct. 1, the 71-year-old played a different role, when he helped move a van-load of people, including a critically injured girl, away from danger and toward help. Hampton and his wife Cheryl were at the Route 91 Harvest Festival watching Jason Aldean perform when the mass shooting that killed more than 50 people and injured more than 500 people began.
To Esquire, Hampton recalled his experience during the shooting, saying that he did what he did simply out of human nature. However, like many of those in attendance, it took him and his wife a few moments to piece together what was actually happening.
“Jason Aldean had just gotten onstage when we heard the shots. We thought they were fireworks. Cheryl said, ‘Really? That’s a sick joke for someone to play with firecrackers during a concert.’ But then all hell broke loose. People were running. People were running over people. People were getting trampled. And bodies started falling around us,” Hampton recalls. “There was blood and chaos, and we needed to get out of there, fast.”
The Hamptons made their way to their minivan, which was parked across the street from the Route 91 Harvest Festival venue. When they got there, a group of young women from California who were at the festival for a bachelorette party begged them for a ride. The Hamptons obliged, and they and their four extra refugees tried to get away from the area — but they were stopped again.
“Just as we were about to pull out, we saw a woman waving at us: ‘My friend is shot! My friend is shot! Help us!’ She yelled at us, pointing,” Hampton remembers. The woman’s friend was slumped over in her wheelchair, bleeding profusely.
“There was so much blood we couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Her head? Her neck? Her stomach? I think it was her chest and head,” Hampton continues. “But there was not doubt in our minds, it looked real bad.”
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The Hamptons and the bachelorette party made room for these people in the van, too. Hampton admits that he is usually “a crazy person full of energy,” but in those moments, he was unusually calm and composed. He enlisted the help of his other passengers to lay out the injured girl and try to assess her injuries, and everyone tried to keep each other calm.
“We barreled out of the parking lot and eventually came upon some police. I rolled my window down and said I have a victim and she’s been shot. ‘She’s critical,’ I said. We needed to get her to the hospital right away or this girl won’t make it,” Hampton says. “So I drove up the wrong side of the Strip to an ambulance.”
As of Oct. 3, that woman — Hampton says her name is Jennifer — was still in critical condition. The other passengers in his minivan-turned-rescue vehicle were delivered safely home.
“I think it’s just human nature. Someone needed my help, so I helped them no questions asked,” Hampton says of why he did what he did. “It was simple … I don’t feel like I saved them or anything, it’s just human decency. I like to think that if I was in this situation, someone would do the same for me.”
Hampton’s passengers disagree with his humility.
“Without Richard, we would have definitely died. He is our guardian angel,” Jamie Vazquez tells Marie Claire. She, her soon-to-be sister-in-law Kaytelyne Odum and Odum’s best friend Elisa Martinez were among those in Hampton’s van. “We’re just happy we’re alive and together.”
On that, Hampton concurs.
“I believe in love and human goodness. I’m kinda like Kenny in that way, I guess,” he says. “He sings about true love and being kind to others. I think he’d be proud of what I did.”
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