Survivors describe escape from Orlando carnage

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Witnesses to America’s worst mass shooting described their efforts to flee the scene.

Omar Mateen killed 50 people in a shooting spree in an Orlando nightclub which had more than 300 people inside.

Jackie Smith was sitting with two friends who got shot.

She said: “Some guy walked in and started shooting everybody. He had an automatic rifle, so nobody stood a chance.

“I just tried to get out of there.”

Ms Smith did not know the conditions of her wounded friends. She came out of the hospital and burst into tears.

Christine Leinonen drove to Orlando at 4am local time on Sunday after learning of the shooting from a friend of her 32-year-old son, Christopher Leinonen, who was at Pulse and was missing.

She had not heard from her son and feared the worst.

“These are nonsensical killings of our children,” she said, sobbing. “They’re killing our babies!”

She said her son’s friend Brandon Wolf survived by hiding in a toilet and running out as the bullets flew.

A woman who was outside the club early on Sunday was trying to contact her 30-year-old son, Eddie, who texted her when the shooting happened and asked her to call police. He told her he ran into a toilet with other club patrons to hide.

He then texted her: “He’s coming.”

“The next text said: ‘He has us, and he’s in here with us’,” Mina Justice said. “That was the last conversation.”

Survivor

Barmaid Tiffany Johnson said she initially thought the gunshots were music. But after a second shot, there was a pause, followed by more shots. That was when she realised something was wrong.

Ms Johnson said people dropped to the ground and started running out of the club. She ran to a fast-food restaurant across the street and met one of her customers who let her get in his car. They drove away.

Clubgoer Rob Rick said the shooting started just as “everybody was drinking their last sip”.

He estimated more than 100 people were still inside when he heard shots, got on the ground and crawled toward a DJ booth. A bouncer knocked down a partition between the club area and an area where only workers are allowed. People were then able to escape through the back of the club.

Christopher Hansen said he was in the VIP lounge when he heard gunshots. He continued to hear shooting even after he emerged and saw the wounded being tended across the street.

“I was thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ So I just dropped down. I just said, ‘Please, please, please, I want to make it out’,” he said. “And when I did, I saw people shot. I saw blood. You hope and pray you don’t get shot.”

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