"I'm just glad Adrian had somebody there who loved him"

By Harriet Sokmensuer
October 03, 2017 05:30 PM
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Best friends Brian MacKinnon and Adrian Murfitt were two of the 22,000 people in attendance on the final night of the Route 91 Harvest country music festival on Sunday in Las Vegas.

The pair, both born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, had attended all three days of the festival and had pushed their way to the front of the crowd for the closing performance by Jason Aldean, Murfitt’s favorite artist.

That’s when loud pops — which some in the audience initially mistook for fireworks — began to sound overhead. Aldean ran from the stage as the audience fled from the sounds of rapid gunfire.

“You just start hearing all these crackling sounds and it just was a bunch of bullets whizzing by us,” MacKinnon, 33, tells PEOPLE. “I looked over at [Murfitt], and he [had gotten] shot through the neck.”

MacKinnon held Muriftt, 35, in his arms, using a T-shirt to apply pressure to his childhood friend’s neck. Other concertgoers also stopped to offer aid.

“He didn’t talk. He literally just looked me in the eyes the entire time,” MacKinnon recalls, breaking down at the memory. “And it was just like this scared, helpless look, you know? And I was yelling at him like, ‘Don’t do it, dude, don’t do it.’ ”

Within minutes, Murfitt was dead — one of at least 58 people killed by 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, who had opened fire on the concert crowd from his 32nd-floor hotel room at the nearby Mandalay Bay casino.

More than 500 others were wounded in the mass shooting, which became the deadliest in modern U.S. history. Paddock, who began shooting about 10:08 p.m. local time, was found dead of an apparent suicide before midnight.

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Brian MacKinnon (left) and Adrian Murfitt
| Credit: Courtesy Brian MacKinnon

‘I’m Not Leaving Him’

For MacKinnon and Murfitt, the festival was to have been more than just a weekend of country music — it was a way for them to enjoy themselves after the recent loss of another close friend.

“We were kind of both having a pretty hard time [and] Adrian [said] that we needed to get out of town,” MacKinnon says. “He bought all the tickets and everything and was like, ‘You’re going. Let’s go.’ ”

In the immediate aftermath of Murfitt being shot on Sunday night, MacKinnon, a father of two, says he was unable to leave his friend behind.

“Someone ran up and checked his pulse and said, ‘He’s dead, let’s go,’ ” MacKinnon says through tears. He ran to cover but then turned around.

“I got back out and I jumped back over the gate and just walked back to him and just sat there cross-legged,” with Murfitt’s head in his lap, MacKinnon says.

“People were yelling at me that I was gonna get shot. But I didn’t really give a s—, you know?” he says.

“I said, ‘I’m not leaving him,’ ” MacKinnon adds. “It seemed like it lasted forever.”

He finally left Murfitt’s body when a female paramedic grabbed him and told him to think of his daughters.

As he spoke to PEOPLE, MacKinnon was back in the hotel room that he and Murfitt shared during their trip to Vegas. He had not seen Murfitt’s body since and had only spoken briefly to his family.

“He’s just the best friend anyone could possibly have. I mean, he [was] a big goof, you know, huge-hearted,” MacKinnon says. “He shouldn’t have died. He’s just too good of a person. There was no wrong with him.”

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Brian MacKinnon (left) and Adrian Murfitt
| Credit: Courtesy Brian MacKinnon
Adrian Murfitt (right) with a friend
| Credit: Courtesy Brian MacKinnon

A Family Left Behind

Murfitt’s relatives say they do not yet know where his body is, but they take some comfort in knowing he wasn’t alone at the end of his life.

“I’m going to miss him every day, every minute,” Murfitt’s older sister, Shannon Gothard, tells PEOPLE.

“We just don’t know where his body is,” she says through tears. “We just want to bring him home. It’s hard not to build up hope by just thinking, ‘Well, there’s really no confirmation and maybe he’s in surgery.’ But we’re trying not to get our hopes up.”

Before his death, Murfitt was coming off a successful season as a commercial fisherman in Alaska and was planning on starting his own company with a friend, Gothard says.

He was very close with his family and loved woodworking and playing hockey, she says. He had hoped to make the Route 91 Harvest, which he attended the year before, into an annual tradition.

“He was a big country music fan, and he would always walk around singing country songs and he had a beautiful voice,” she says. “He tried to bring love into each room he entered, whatever room he was in.”

She says she hopes her family learns where his remains are soon.

“I’m just glad Brian was there,” she says, “and Adrian had somebody there who loved him.”

How to Help

Friends and family are asked to report missing people believed to be connected to the shooting using the hotline 1-800-536-9488.

Anyone with photo or video evidence of the shooting is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

A victims’ fund has been started on GoFundMe by Steve Sisolak, the Clark County, Nevada, commission chair. Other groups providing relief include the local chapter of the American Red Cross and the National Compassion Fund.