The victims fell as others around them spun around trying to pinpoint the rapid tapping in the distance. With thousands of people in the wide open and little sense of where the shooting was coming from, life and death was a matter of luck.

They came from Alaska and Tennessee, California and West Virginia, commercial fishermen, police officers, teachers, retirees — drawn together only by a love of country music.

When the shooting stopped, 59 of those distant lives would end in the latest massacre to take the grim title of “the worst mass shooting in modern American history.”

As the afternoon light faded on Sunday at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Denise Burditus leaned in for a selfie with her husband, Tony. The lens caught a sliver of the gold-glass Mandalay Bay Resort, to that point still famous only for its luxury lounges, lagoon pools and walk-through shark aquarium.

The couple had traveled from Martinsburg, W.Va., and were posting photos of themselves poolside and at dinner.

This would be their last photo together.

“It saddens me to say that I lost my wife of 32 years, a mother of two, soon to be grandmother of five this evening in the Las Vegas shooting,” Tony later wrote in a Facebook post. “Denise passed in my arms. I LOVE YOU BABE.”

Denise, 50, was a Seattle Seahawks fan and described herself on Facebook as semi-retired. In photos, she’s often surrounded by family, acting goofy, planting kisses on Tony.

“Oh Tony,” wrote Tammy Petersen Hacker on his Facebook page. “I just keep looking at the cool, beautiful pictures both you and Denise have been sharing of all the fun you were having … your loss is unfathomable.”

And so the litany of loss went, the sickeningly random toll of a soft-target attack on 22,000 people, with grieving now gripping the nation and beyond.

In Bakersfield, Calif., co-workers at Infinity Communications & Consulting Inc. lost Bailey Schweitzer, 20, their “ray of sunshine … on a cloudy day,” her boss, Fred Brakeman, said in a statement.

“No one could possibly have a bad day when Bailey was around,” he said.

Thomas Day Jr.’s adult children lost a father they were so close to that all four were with him at the concert when he died.

Day, 54, was a home builder from Riverside, Calif.

“He was the best dad,” said Day’s father, Thomas Sr. “His kids are with me right now. They’re crushed.”

At Vista Fundamental Elementary School in Simi Valley, Calif., students lost their longtime office manager, Susan Smith, 53, the first to greet them as they walked in with her warm laugh and big sense of humor.

The victims fell as others around them spun around trying to pinpoint the rapid tapping in the distance. With thousands of people in the wide open and little sense of where the shooting was coming from, life and death was a matter of luck.

Adrian Murfitt, 35, a commercial fisherman, flew down from Alaska with his childhood friend Brian MacKinnon. He died in his buddy’s arms.

MacKinnon, 33, described his friend as an animal lover and goofball. “He made me laugh. He was like an Alaskan cowboy, but when he saw a dog he’d turn into a 10-year-old kid,” he said.

Others eulogized him as a man who went out of his way to help his friends.

“Can’t describe in words how thankful and grateful I am to have you show me what a real true gentleman you are,” Christine Young said of Murfitt on Facebook. “I’ll keep the advice you gave me and I promise to take it as I go through life moving forward … you’ll be kept in a special place in my heart.”

John Phippen, the owner of JP Specialties, a home remodeling company in Santa Clarita, Calif., was dancing next to his son, Travis, at the country music festival when he was struck by a bullet in the lower back.

Travis, an emergency medical technician, carried his father to a car that transported both of them to Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, where John later died from his injuries. He was 56.

“He was my best friend,” Travis said. “He never did anything wrong to anybody. He was always kind and gentle. He was the biggest teddy bear I knew.”

In the chaotic scene, Travis had been shot in the arm but didn’t realize it until he arrived at the hospital. In his grief, the wound was an afterthought.

“We are all kind of in disbelief that it would happen to someone so gentle,” Travis said.

For some, final word on their loved one’s fate was hard to pin down.

In Garden Grove, Calif., Mavis Barnette was almost asleep when she received a phone call about 11:30 p.m. Sunday from a friend of her daughter, Carrie.

Carrie had been shot, the friend said.

“I said, ‘What are you talking about? … Where? When? What?’ And she told me she was shot in the chest.”

Carrie, 34, a food service worker at Disneyland, had died before reaching the hospital, the friend told Barnette.

As of late Monday, Barnette still had not been able to get confirmation from Las Vegas officials that her daughter had been killed Sunday night, despite many calls, she said.

“Nobody has any idea where she’s at,” she said.

Her friends were already mourning.

“She was the kind of friend that everybody would want in their life,” Carrie’s friend Nicole Johnson wrote in an email. “She was vivacious, caring, funny, sweet, energetic, creative, loyal, thoughtful, giving and full of life.”

(Times staff reporters Esmeralda Bermudez, Seema Mehta and Laura J. Nelson contributed to this story.)

Previous coverage

LAS VEGAS — The rapid-fire popping sounded like firecrackers at first, and many in the crowd of 22,000 country music fans didn't understand what was happening when the band stopped playing and singer Jason Aldean bolted off the stage.

"That's gunshots," a man could be heard saying emphatically on a cellphone video in the nearly half-minute of silence and confusion that followed. A woman pleaded with others: "Get down! Get down! Stay down!"

Then the bam-bam-bam sounds resumed. And pure terror set in.

"People start screaming and yelling and we start running," said Andrew Akiyoshi, who provided the cellphone video to The Associated Press. "You could feel the panic. You could feel like the bullets were flying above us. Everybody's ducking down, running low to the ground."

While some concertgoers hit the ground, others pushed for the crowded exits, shoving through narrow gates and climbing over fences as 40- to 50-round bursts of what was believed to be automatic weapons fire rained down on them from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino hotel.

By Monday afternoon, 59 victims were dead and 527 wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

"You just didn't know what to do," Akiyoshi said. "Your heart is racing and you're thinking, 'I'm going to die.'"

The gunman, identified as Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old retired accountant from Mesquite, Nevada, killed himself before officers stormed Room 135 in the gold-colored glass skyscraper. He had been staying there since Thursday and had busted out windows to create his sniper's perch, roughly 500 yards from the concert grounds.

The move for the attack remained a mystery, with Sheriff Joseph Lombardo saying: "I can't get into the mind of a psychopath at this point."

Paddock had 16 guns in his hotel room, including rifles with scopes, Lombardo said. Two were modified to make them fully automatic, according to two U.S. officials briefed by law enforcement who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still unfolding.

At Paddock's home, authorities found 18 more guns, explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Also, several pounds of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that has been used to make explosives, were found in his car, the sheriff said.

The FBI said it found nothing so far to suggest the attack was connected to international terrorism, despite a claim of responsibility from the Islamic State group, which said Paddock was a "soldier" who had recently converted to Islam.

In an address to the country, President Donald Trump called the bloodbath "an act of pure evil" and added: "In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always has." He ordered flags flown at half-staff.

With hospitals jammed with victims, authorities put out a call for blood donations and set up a hotline to report missing people and speed the identification of the dead and wounded. They also opened a "family reunification center" for people to find loved ones.

More than 12 hours after the massacre, bodies covered in white sheets were still being removed from the festival grounds.

The shooting began at 10:08 p.m., and the gunman appeared to fire unhindered for more than 10 minutes, according to radio traffic. Police frantically tried to locate him and determine whether the gunfire was coming from Mandalay Bay or the neighboring Luxor hotel.

At 10:14 p.m., an officer said on his radio that he was pinned down against a wall on Las Vegas Boulevard with 40 to 50 people.

"We can't worry about the victims," an officer said at 10:15 p.m. "We need to stop the shooter before we have more victims. Anybody have eyes on him ... stop the shooter."

Near the stage, Dylan Schneider, a country singer who performed earlier in the day, huddled with others under the VIP bleachers, where he turned to his manager and asked, "Dude, what do we do?" He said he repeated the question again and again over the next five minutes.

Bodies were laid out on the artificial turf installed in front of the stage, and people were screaming and crying. The sound of people running on the bleachers added to the confusion, and Schneider thought the concert was being invaded with multiple shooters.

"No one knew what to do," Schneider said. "It's literally running for life and you don't know what decision is the right one. But like I said, I knew we had to get out of there."

He eventually pushed his way out of the crowd and found refuge in the nearby Tropicana hotel-casino, where he kicked in a door to an engineering room and spent hours there with others who followed him.

The shooting had begun as Aldean closed out the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival. He had just opened the song "When She Says Baby" and the first burst of nearly 50 shots crackled as he sang, "It's tough just getting up."

Muzzle flashes could be seen in the dark as the gunman fired away.

"It was the craziest stuff I've ever seen in my entire life," said Kodiak Yazzie, 36. "You could hear that the noise was coming from west of us, from Mandalay Bay. You could see a flash, flash, flash, flash."

The crowd, funneled tightly into a wide-open space, had little cover and no easy way to escape. Victims fell to the ground while others fled in panic. Some hid behind concession stands. Others crawled under parked cars.

Faces were etched with shock and confusion, and people wept and screamed.

Tales of heroism and compassion emerged quickly: Couples held hands as they ran through the dirt lot. Some of the bleeding were carried out by fellow concertgoers. While dozens of ambulances took away the wounded, while some people loaded victims into their cars and drove them to the hospital. People fleeing the concert grounds hitched rides with strangers, piling into cars and trucks.

Some of the injured were hit by shrapnel. Others were trampled or were injured jumping fences.

The dead included at least three off-duty police officers from various departments who were attending the concert, authorities said. Two on-duty officers were wounded, one critically, police said.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the Sunday night attack was the work of a "crazed lunatic full of hate."

The sheriff said authorities believe Paddock acted alone. While Paddock appeared to have no criminal history, his father was a bank robber who was on the FBI's most-wanted list in the 1960s.

As for why Paddock went on the murderous rampage, his brother in Florida, Eric Paddock, told reporters: "I can't even make something up. There's just nothing."

Nearly every inch of the Las Vegas Strip is under video surveillance, much of it set up by the casinos to monitor their properties. That could yield a wealth of material for investigators,

Hours after the shooting, Aldean posted on Instagram that he and his crew were safe and that the shooting was "beyond horrific."

"It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night," the country star said.

Before Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place in June 2016, when a gunman who professed support for Muslim extremist groups opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people.

A suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, killed 22 people in May. Almost 90 people were killed in 2015 at a concert in Paris by gunmen inspired by the Islamic State.

Previous coverage

LAS VEGAS — A gunman perched on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel-casino unleashed a hail of bullets on an outdoor country music festival below, killing at least 58 people as tens of thousands of concertgoers screamed and ran for their lives, officials said Monday. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

At least 515 others were injured in the Sunday night attack, authorities said.

SWAT teams using explosives stormed the gunman's hotel room in the sleek, gold-colored glass skyscraper and found he had killed himself, authorities said. The gunman, identified as Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old retiree from Mesquite, Nevada, had as many as 10 guns with him, including rifles, they said.

Asked about the motive for the attack, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said: "I can't get into the mind of a psychopath at this point."

The sheriff said a check of federal and state databases showed Paddock was not on law enforcement authorities' radar before the bloodbath.

Aaron Rouse, the FBI agent in charge in Las Vegas, said investigators saw no immediate evidence connecting it to an international terror organization, despite a claim of responsibility from the Islamic State group.

Country music star Jason Aldean was performing at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in front of a crowd of more than 22,000 when the gunman in the 44-floor Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino apparently used a hammer-like device to smash out windows in his room and opened fire, the muzzle flashes visible in the dark, authorities said.

The crowd, funneled tightly into a wide-open space, had little cover and no easy way to escape. Victims fell to the ground while others fled in panic. Some hid behind concession stands, while others crawled under parked cars.

Kodiak Yazzie, 36, said the music stopped briefly after the first shots, then started up again before a second round of pops sent the performers ducking for cover and fleeing the stage.

"It was the craziest stuff I've ever seen in my entire life," Yazzie said. "You could hear that the noise was coming from west of us, from Mandalay Bay. You could see a flash, flash, flash, flash."

Monique Dumas, of British Columbia, Canada, said she was six rows from the stage when she heard what she thought was a bottle breaking, then a popping that sounded to her like fireworks.

Couples held hands as they ran through the dirt lot. Faces were etched with shock and confusion, and people wept and screamed. Some were bloodied, and some were carried out by fellow concertgoers. Dozens of ambulances took away the wounded, while some people loaded victims into their cars and drove them to the hospital.

The shooter appeared to fire unhindered for more than 10 minutes as Las Vegas police frantically tried to locate the man in one of the Mandalay Bay hotel towers, according to radio traffic. For several minutes, officers could not tell whether the automatic fire was coming from Mandalay Bay or the neighboring Luxor hotel.

In an address to the country, President Donald Trump called the attack "an act of pure evil" and added: "In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always has." He ordered flags flown at half-staff.

Hospital emergency rooms were jammed with the wounded. Rep. Ruben Kihuen, a Democrat whose congressional district includes a portion of Las Vegas, visited a hospital and said: "Literally, every single bed was being used, every single hallway was being used. Every single person there was trying to save a life."

Las Vegas authorities put out a call for blood donations and set up a hotline to report missing people and speed the identification of the dead and wounded. They also opened a "family reunification center" for people to find loved ones.

The dead included at least three off-duty police officers from various departments who were attending the concert, authorities said. Two on-duty officers were wounded, one critically, police said.

"It's a devastating time," the sheriff said.

The sheriff said authorities believe it was a "lone wolf" attack but want to talk to Paddock's roommate, a woman Lombardo said was out of the country at the time of the attack.

Paddock's brother, Eric Paddock, who lives in Florida, told the Orlando Sentinel: "We are completely dumbfounded. We can't understand what happened."

Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the attack was the work of a "crazed lunatic full of hate."

In its claim of responsibility, the Islamic State group said the gunman was "a soldier" who had converted to Islam months ago. But it provided no evidence, and the extremist organization has been known to make unsubstantiated claims of responsibility for attacks around the world.

The Islamic State group also said it was responsible for a June attack on a Manila casino and shopping complex where 37 died, mostly from smoke inhalation — a claim rejected by authorities, who said the lone attacker was a heavily indebted Filipino gambling addict.

On Monday, the U.S. Homeland Security Department said there was no "specific credible threat" involving other public venues in the U.S.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered the support of the FBI and other federal agencies but noted that the investigation is being led by the sheriff in Las Vegas. That was seen as another possible sign the shooting was not believed to be an act of international terrorism.

Interstate 15 was briefly closed after the attack, and flights at McCarran International Airport were suspended for a while.

Nearly every inch of the Las Vegas Strip is under video surveillance, much of it set up by the casinos to monitor their properties. That could yield a wealth of material for investigators as they try to piece together the attack.

Hours after the shooting, Aldean posted on Instagram that he and his crew were safe and that the shooting was "beyond horrific."

"It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night," the country star said.

Before Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place in June 2016, when a gunman who professed support for Muslim extremist groups opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people.

Sunday's shooting came more than four months after a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, that killed 22 people. Almost 90 people were killed by gunmen inspired by Islamic State at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris during a performance by Eagles of Death Metal in 2015.