Las Vegas shooting: What is the Route 91 Harvest Festival?

Before Sunday night's shooting at the final night of the Route 91 Harvest Festival, which has so far claimed more than 50 lives, the country music event had established itself as one of the most popular in the US.

For a second year in a row, the Route 91 Harvest Festival had been sold out months in advance, with Jason Aldean, Eric Church and Sam Hunt headlining this year's event in front of around 40,000 fans. 

Known as the "three-day neon sleepover" among country music lovers due to the festival's glitzy location on the central Las Vegas Strip, the event will now have much darker associations.

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Aldean, a country music superstar, was performing on the closing night when shots began ringing out mid-song. He was quick to express his devastation.

"Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still don't know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that me and my crew are safe," he wrote in a statement on Instagram. "It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night."

Instagram-Post: Pray for Las Vegas

Since his self-titled debut album and first number one single in 2005, Aldean has become one of the biggest country acts in the US. Hit songs like "The Truth" currently have around 30 million views on YouTube. 

Other headliners this year included country rock singer-songwriter Eric Church, who has collaborated with Keith Urban on six number one hits – his 2016 album "Record Year" also reached number one on the Country Airplay charts. Church performed to adoring fans on Saturday, the second day of the Route 91 Harvest Festival.


Shooter targets crowd in Las Vegas

Police say 59 people have been killed and more than 500 injured in a shooting in Las Vegas. Officers were called to a music festival near the Mandalay Bay Casino on the US city's famous Strip late Sunday after reports of a mass shooting.


People flee the area

The Las Vegas police department asked people to leave or avoid the area, while sealing off roads leading to the scene. People attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival reported seeing and hearing what they described as automatic gunfire coming from the Mandalay Bay hotel.


Gunman identified as local resident

Police identified the shooter as 64-year-old Nevada resident Stephen Paddock, but said they had no information about his motive. He reportedly had 10 different firearms in his hotel room, and police found more guns and ammunition in his house.


Police says shooter killed himself

The suspect fired from a window on the 32nd floor of the Las Vegas hotel into the crowd gathered below, said Las Vegas Sheriff Joe Lombardo (pictured above). Police said the gunman likely killed himself before the SWAT team broke into the room.


'It sounded like fireworks'

Some 22,000 people were in the crowd when Paddock opened fire, sparking a panic and a stampede. "It sounded like fireworks. People were just dropping to the ground," said one of the concert-goers.


Police search

While Las Vegas police said they believed the suspect was the sole shooter, Lombardo said investigators want to talk with Paddock's girlfriend and live-in companion Marilou Danley. The Australian woman is reported to be traveling abroad - and has meanwhile been ruled out as a "person of interest."


'Beyond horrific'

Several off-duty police officers had been attending the music festival and at least two had been killed, Lombardo said. Country singer Jason Aldean, who was performing when the shooting started, posted on Instagram saying his thoughts were with those affected. He described the night as "beyond horrific."


Deadliest mass shooting in US history

The Las Vegas attack is the deadliest shooting in modern US history, exceeding the toll of 49 dead in an attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June 2016.


A moment of silence

President Donald Trump on Tuesday called the gunman a "very, very sick individual." He ordered the American flags at all public buildings across the nation be flown at half-staff, and observed a moment of silence on the White House lawn. Asked about gun laws, the president said: "We'll be talking about gun laws as time goes on."

These acts were the first-rate headliners at a festival that wanted to remain intimate and not outgrow itself – which partly explains why it is so quick to sell out. The festival (as seen in the tweet from Saturday) was known as much for its special atmosphere as for its high-profile performers, who also shared the stage with country music up-and-comers.

"I do believe Route 91 has a certain cachet to it," said its co-creator, Brian O'Connell, who is also president of Live Nation Country Music, in an interview last year with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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"People know what they're going to expect. It's not just about the artist. It's a three-day pass. They're making a commitment to come for the weekend."

That special atmosphere has now been overshadowed by Sunday's shooting.

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DW News | 02.10.2017

Las Vegas shooting: Carsten von Nahmen reports