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Love Blossomed From Tragedy For Couple Who Escaped Las Vegas Mass Shooting Together After Just Meeting Each Other
Chantal Melanson and Austin Monfort had known each other for less than 24 hours before Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas.
A couple who first met shortly before escaping the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting together has tied the knot.
Chantal Melanson and Austin Monfort first met during the second night of the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas in 2017, Melanson told to Oxygen.com. The following day, a gunman opened fire on the festival, killing more than 50 people. Melanson and Monfort escaped together, and later fell in love; they have since gotten married
Melanson, who is from Canada, relayed the story of how she first met Monfort, who lived in San Diego, during a recent interview with PEOPLE. The 29-year-old recalled not taking the 24-year-old Monfort seriously when he first approached at the event because he wasn’t “wearing cowboy boots at a country bar.” However, after Monfort approached her a second time, she agreed to dance and the two hit it off, talking for hours and exchanging numbers at the end of the night, according to the outlet.
The next night, the two met up to watch the last performances of the festival together, but it was after country artist Jason Aldean took the stage that things took a tragic turn. A man later identified as gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Resort, shooting indiscriminately at the crowd below, according to NBC News. But as Monfort and Melanson explained, they, like many others, didn’t realize what was happening at first, and instead thought that someone had started shooting off fireworks.
“We were just listening to music having a good time,” Monfort told PEOPLE. “Until we realized that the noises weren’t fireworks, they were gunshots. Then it became, ‘Am I going to survive this, how much longer until police can make it stop, and how do we get out of here?’”
Monfort and Melanson fled together, with Monfort doing his best to protect Melanson from harm, he explained.
"I felt a sense of responsibility for Chantal," he said. "She was with me and not her friends. I felt like not only did I have to get myself out, but also her. Keeping her calm and getting her out kept me calm, and didn’t allow me to panic."
The pair made it out safely, but dozens of others weren’t so lucky. Before taking his own life, Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds more; a 59th victim, who was injured during the shooting, died from her wounds two years later, in November 2019, according to NBC News.
But for Monfort and Melanson, their love grew from what they experienced together; after fleeing to safety, they stood by each other’s side for the remainder of the night and kept in touch after they both flew back to their respective homes, PEOPLE reports.
“Experiencing that kind of trauma together for sure brought us closer,” Melanson told Oxygen.com. “He felt like my safe place. He knew exactly what I had gone through [and] vice versa.”
Monfort and Melanson were married at a courthouse in San Diego, California in November 2019 after getting engaged in March of that year, Melanson told Oxygen.com. On their shared Instagram page, the couple revealed that they planned to have a wedding ceremony on May 8, 2020, but have had to postpone those plans due to the ongoing pandemic.