Vet who rescued Las Vegas victims gets free truck

PHOENIX - Taylor Winston has been hailed as a hero after he seized a truck and used it to drive critically injured victims to the hospital after the Las Vegas shooting.

But the 29-year-old San Diego resident said there were plenty of people who helped out that night.

"I’ve been given a lot more credit than I deserve," said the soft-spoken U.S. Marine Corps veteran, who was in Arizona Monday to accept the offer of a free truck from B5 Motors in Gilbert.

Winston said he only accepted the 2013 Ford F-150 because the gift will allow him to sell his current vehicle and donate the proceeds to Las Vegas shooting victims.

"It’s been really hard to even get myself to come out here and accept a gift of this caliber," he said. "But I can turn around and do a lot of good with it, so I’m happy to be here."

Shane Beus, owner of B5 Motors, said he was so taken when he read about Winston's actions that he reached out to offer him a truck. Beus said he doesn't care if Winston keeps the truck, gives the vehicle away or sells it. He just wanted to express his appreciation.

"It's very, very courageous what he did," Beus said.

Winston was at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas on the night of Oct. 1 when the gunman opened fire on the audience from a 32nd-floor window in the nearby Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, killing 58 and injuring nearly 500 in what became the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.

Winston and his girlfriend, Jenn Lewis, were at a country bar for the evening and made it to the festival just as country artist Jason Aldean took the stage.

They heard popping sounds, which at first Winston thought were fireworks. He and Lewis and his friends started running when they realized it was gunfire.

He wasn't sure where the gunfire was coming from and panicked. He told people to keep their heads down and began helping people over a fence and to safety. He saw people get shot as they tried to get over the fence.

Once he made it over the fence, he heard someone yell, "Just keep going."

But something made him stop.

He knew he had to help.

He saw a lot filled with cars and trucks across the street. As a frequent country-festival attendee, he knew festival workers sometimes left their trucks unlocked, with the keys inside.

He was lucky: The first truck he tried had the keys sitting right in the console. He commandeered the vehicle and he and Lewis, along with others, loaded gunshot victims into the truck. He headed for a hospital while Lewis put pressure on wounds and talked to victims to reassure them.

Winston said his military training helped him stay calm while driving two trips with 20 to 30 victims total.

He has since been able to meet privately with some of the victims, and hug them and talk about the experience. He also has heard that a few of the people he transported that night didn't make it.

Winston left the truck he borrowed outside a country-western bar later that night, intending to search for the owner the next day.

He reached ot through social media and friends and was able to find the man whose truck he borrowed. They met, he gave the keys back, and they hugged.

"He was incredibly happy his truck was able to help in this horrific tragedy. It’s unofficial, but his truck will be very well taken care of," he said.

Winston said the tragedy won't stop him from attending other country-music festivals. An avid line dancer, he plans to attend Country Thunder in April in Arizona, just as he has for the last few years.

His San Diego friends are planning to come with him. Winston, a woodworker, is known for building dance floors "in the middle of nowhere."

"Stuff like that, this truck will be utilized 100% for," he said.

Follow Anne Ryman on Twitter: @anneryman

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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