Route 91: A Survivor’s Story

Olga Doccozi got the kind of phone call that no mother ever wants to get. It Sunday night at 10:42 p.m. On the phone was her son, Anthony, who was in Las Vegas at the Route 91 Harvest festival. He was wounded, crawling on the ground toward an exit, and afraid he’d be trampled by the hundreds of concertgoers fleeing for their lives.

“Anthony got shot by the madman,” said Olga, who was aboard a plane from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif., along with Anthony’s sister, Nella, feverishly making their way to Las Vegas to be with their son and brother.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” said Olga Doccozi. “There was so much screaming going on I could hardly hear Anthony.”

Nella Doccozi grabbed the phone from her mother. “I told Anthony to hang up, put his hands over his head so he wouldn’t get crushed, and look for some help.”

Las Vegas Shooting
Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP
– Las Vegas Shooting

Once the plane landed, Nella Doccozi, immediately reached for her cell phone to call her brother. A sigh of relief passed over both women once they heard Anthony’s voice.

From a hospital bed, Anthony Doccozi told his story. “I was near the stage and Jason Aldean was playing one of my favorite songs,” he said. “Then I heard loud noises; I thought it was firecrackers or maybe part of the show. I soon realized that something was seriously wrong. I looked to my right and saw a girl, get shot. Her white dress was red with blood. She fell to the ground.”

“People started running, pushing, ducking for cover and I kept hearing gunshots,” he recalled. “A lot of gunshots. It would get quiet for a minute and then a new round would start. I started moving with the crowd toward a fence; I thought I could climb it and get out.”

“The next thing I knew I was hit,” said Doccozi. “Before I could even react, I was hit again. I fell to the ground. I was crawling now, still trying to get to that fence. That’s when I got my phone out of my pocket and called my mom. My sister told me to hang up and get help.”

Help arrived in the form of a man and woman, names still unknown, but heroes nonetheless.

“Almost as soon as I hung up with my family, a man in a cowboy hat and a woman in jeans and a tank top reached down and picked me up,” said Anthony Doccozi from Desert Springs Hospital, Las Vegas. “They carried me to a red truck and laid me down in the bed. Moments later they put another person next to me. It was a man. I tried to talk to him but after a minute I realized he was dead.”

The man and woman retrieved another person; a woman with blood all over her, according to Doccozi, and put her in the truck’s bed next to Doccozi.

“Even though she was badly hurt she was conscious, he said. “That girl and I held hands as the man and woman raced us to the hospital.”

“As soon as the truck reached the hospital emergency room door, ER workers came straight out with a rolling stretcher and put the girl next to me on it,” he said. “Another bunch of workers came with another stretcher and got me.”

Doccozi was one of the lucky ones. He got shot in the femur and on his lower leg. But he survived. “It’s all still very blurry from when I got into the hospital,” he recalled. “I remember being on a table and the doctors working on me and then I sort of passed out and the next thing I knew I was out of the ER and in a hospital room.”

Then Doccozi did exactly what he did earlier in the night: he called his mother.

“She started crying and I told her I was going to be okay,” he said. “She and my sister wanted to drive up here at 1 a.m. last night. I insisted they wait till the morning and fly here.”

Fly they did. With a heavy heart and filled with worry, even though Anthony appeared to be safe. “I wasn’t going to rest until I saw my boy,” said Olga Doccozi.

Anthony is shaken, rattled, and facing a long road of physical and mental recovery.

But what he remembers from that night is not the panic, or fear, but the faces of that anonymous man in his cowboy hat and the woman in the tank top. “They saved my life,” he said. “That much I am sure of.”

Doccozi was one of 527 reported wounded in what was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history with at least 59 fatalities shot indiscriminately into the crowd of 22,000 country music fans  gathered at Las Vegas Village for the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival.

Brad Weissberg is a senior writer at Venues Today.