Vegas victims shared love of country music, zest for life
Pati Mestas was a firecracker. Candice Bowers a tough-minded mom. Hannah Ahlers her family’s sunshine.
The victims of Sunday’s mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert lived their lives with passion and a love of country music.
Some families took comfort knowing the victims spent their last hours dancing to their favorite songs. Others grappled with harrowing thoughts about the night of terror.
Here are stories about some of the people who didn’t make it out alive.
A TOUGH, DEVOTED SINGLE MOTHER OF THREE
Candice Bowers of Garden Grove, California, was a tough-minded single mother of three with a loud, infectious laugh. Her family said she worked as a waitress and was spending some much-needed time off at the concert. The huge Jason Aldean fan was very excited to be there.
She was also celebrating a personal milestone: Bowers had just finished a yearslong process to adopt a 2-year-old daughter.
“That was just done, and it was a big accomplishment to get through the adoption process,” said Michelle Bolks, Bowers’ aunt.
Bowers also had a 20-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter.
“She had a bit of a rough upbringing, but as soon as babies came into her life she stepped up and stepped forward and never looked back. She did this all by herself and took this little one in and was doing it again,” Bolks said.
COLLEGE REMEMBERS HONOR SOCIETY STUDENT
Known for her warmth and adventuresome spirit, Jordyn Rivera was in her fourth year at California State University, San Bernardino, where she made an impression on everyone from students to the president.
University President Tomas Morales said he got to know Rivera last summer in London during a summertime program for study abroad.
“As one of her faculty members noted, we will remember and treasure her for her warmth, optimism, energy, and kindness,” he wrote in a message to faculty and staff.
A native of the Los Angeles suburb of La Verne, Rivera, 21, was studying health care management. Fellow members of an honor society are now raising money to pay her funeral expenses.
THREE CALIFORNIA CHILDREN LOSE MOM
Keri Lynn Galvan was at the Route 91 Harvest music festival with her husband, Justin, when she was killed by a gunman’s rain of bullets, her sister, Lindsey Poole, wrote in a statement. Her husband survived.
“She was senselessly murdered on October 1st, 2017 while enjoying a night out with her husband and friends,” Poole wrote.
The 31-year-old mother from Thousand Oaks, California, leaves behind children ages 10, 4 and 2.
Galvan’s days “started and ended with doing everything in her power to be a wonderful mother,” Poole wrote.
‘OUR FIRECRACKER IS GONE’
The first time Alexis Magana drove over to her friend Brandon Mestas’ house, she asked how to find it.
“Oh, you’ll know,” he told her. “It’s the one blasting country.”
It was Brandon’s mom, Pati Mestas, who was the household’s country music fanatic. Pati Mestas, 67, of California, died in Las Vegas while listening to that favorite music. Magana remembered her as someone who was “fearless and bold” and always welcoming, from that first day they met.
“She really was a firecracker,” Magana wrote to The Associated Press in a Facebook message. “I just never dreamed she’d be taken from us in an instant. Our firecracker is gone and now it’s just dark.”
Brandon Mestas, 33, wrote on his Facebook page that his mother surely enjoyed herself in her final moments.
“She left this world surrounded by friends, singing and dancing with thousands of people. If I had to write the script myself, I could not have done a better job,” he wrote.
ONE OF THE FIRST TO DIE
Brett Schwanbeck was hit almost immediately when the first shots were fired, his niece Carla Dawn wrote in an online fundraising page.
Schwanbeck, 61, had been at the concert with his fiance, Anna. She found refuge in a dumpster as the shots kept coming, then ran back to Schwanbeck and begged for people to help him as soon as the shooting stopped, Dawn wrote.
Schwanbeck was rushed to a hospital, where he fought his injuries for two days before dying Tuesday.
His niece described him someone who “would drive 500 miles to help you if you needed it.”
STUDENT WAS CELEBRATING BIRTHDAY
It was a weekend of birthday celebrations for Austin Meyer, 24, in Las Vegas.
Meyer, an automotive student at Truckee Meadows Community College in Nevada, was attending the concert with his fiance, Dana Getreu.
Meyer dreamed of opening his own repair shop and starting a family, his sister, Veronica Meyer, told KSBW News.
“Austin was a joy to be around. He always had a smile on his face, was (witty) and was always making people laugh,” she said.
MOM WAS ‘BEAUTIFUL INSIDE AND OUT’
Hannah Ahlers, a mother of three, was with her husband of 17 years when she was killed at the concert, according to the newspaper in Redlands, California, where she grew up.
Her father-in-law, Dave Ahlers, told the Redlands Daily Facts that she was a “great mom and family person.”
Ahlers lived in Beaumont with her husband, Brian Ahlers, and three children, ages 3, 11 and 14. She was a stay-at-home mom and “amazing at it,” Brian Ahlers said in a statement to the newspaper.
“Beautiful inside and out,” he said.
Her brother, Lance Miller, agreed.
“She was our sunshine,” Miller told the newspaper.
SEATTLE WOMAN LOVED COUNTRY MUSIC
Carrie Parsons was a huge fan of country singer Eric Church.
“Night made!” she posted Saturday on Facebook after seeing the singer at the Las Vegas country festival.
Parsons, of Seattle, was one of the people who died when shots rang out at the Jason Aldean performance on Sunday night.
“I feel peace knowing she was living life until her last moments,” her friend Carolyn Farmer wrote in a social media post sharing Parson’s comments about the Church show.
Parsons was a staffing manager at the recruiting company Ajilon in Seattle, according to her LinkedIn page.
FRIENDS DIED AT CONCERT TOGETHER
Austin Davis, 29, “had this unbelievable super power of making everyone he knew and loved feel like he’d catch a speeding bullet out of the air for them,” friend Katelyn Hood told The Associated Press in a Facebook message.
Davis was the only child of his parents, Lori and Gary Davis. The family was so close that Davis built his house on their property in Riverside, California, so he would never be far away.
“He was their protector,” said Hood, who named Davis as her son’s godfather.
Davis also left behind his girlfriend of nine years, whom he met in high school. He was at the concert with a family friend, Thomas Day Jr., who also died.
He worked as a pipe fitter, loved watching his friends’ dogs — especially German Shepherds — and always made sure his friends’ had smiles on their faces.
“Austin was Austin and no one could change him,” Hood said. “He stood firm on his beliefs because he knew he was raised right.”
Associated Press writers Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Don Babwin in Chicago; Julie Watson in San Diego, California; Jason Dearen in Gainesville, Florida; Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City; Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, California; and researchers Jennifer Farrar, Rhonda Shafner, Randy Herschaft and Monika Mathur contributed to this report.
For complete coverage of the Las Vegas shooting, click here: https://apnews.com/tag/LasVegasmassshooting
This story has been corrected to show that Candice Bowers had a 20-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter, not a 20-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son.