Clubgoer Luis Castro was a survivor of the mass shooting at Pulse early Sunday morning

Advertisement
Image
Credit: Gerardo Mora/Getty

A clubgoer at Pulse, the Orlando nightclub and site of Sunday’s mass shooting that killed at least 50 people and injured 53, shares harrowing details of what he called “the worst experience of my life.”

Luis Castro, 23, was at the gay nightclub early Sunday morning, having heard Pulse was a “good, fun scene. They were having a party with music I like,” he tells PEOPLE.

About an hour after he arrived by himself to the club, Castro heard gunfire as the shooter, identified as Omar Saddiqui Mateen, opened fire on the crowd. (Mateen was later killed after exchanging gunfire with the Orlando police.)

“It was like they always say it sounds: Pop-pop-pop,” Castro says.

“At first, I couldn’t believe it. I thought, ‘There is no way this is happening.’ ”

Hearing screams from the crowd and a chemical smell, likely from the discharged weapon, Castro says he dropped flat to the ground.

“I waited a few moments. Then I got up the nerve to look,” he says, adding that he raised his head slightly to survey the scene.

“It was bad. It was so, so bad. Everyone was trying to get out.”

The gunfire continued for what seemed like “forever,” Castro recalls. He says he wanted to stop the gunman.

“I wanted to take him out, like those three guys did on the train,” Castro says, recalling the thwarted terror attacks aboard a French train in August 2015. “I wanted to tackle him.”

As he lay on the ground, the scene around him became more chaotic.

“Someone fell, right in front of me,” Castro says. “Before I could say anything – ‘Are you okay?’ – he got up. He kept moving.”

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

Castro realized that he needed to leave immediately to save his own life.

“By the time I found someone to help me, we all would be dead. I just knew,” he says. “I had to get out of there. I got out as fast as I could.”

Now, Castro is trying to work through the aftermath of the attack.

“I wish I had the chance [to do something], but I am grateful for the chance at my own life,” Castro says. “I keep thinking about what happened. I haven’t been able to sleep. So far, this has been the worst experience of my life.”

A federal law official tells PEOPLE that Mateen called 911 and declared his allegence to ISIS before the attack. ISIS has since claimed responsibility.