Area couple on honeymoon in Vegas during mass shooting

Tim and Rita Fletcher take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon during their honeymoon trip to Las Vegas last week. The couple left their hotel to go to the airport when the shooting started at the Mandalay Bay hotel on Sunday night. Courtesy photo

A few minutes might have made the difference for a local couple who were in Las Vegas over the weekend.

Rita Fletcher and her husband Tim spent their honeymoon in the Las Vegas region, even having a picnic on the floor of the Grand Canyon.  They ended it Sunday on lockdown at an airport.

Rita Fletcher, originally from Tom’s Brook, has lived in Winchester the last couple of years.

The couple married  Sept. 23 at Lake Frederick. They spent the week exploring Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam.

Most of their stay was at the MGM Grand, looking out onto the Mandalay Bay hotel, the perch chosen by Stephen Craig Paddock, a retired accountant turned gunman who opened fire on a country music concert, killing at least 59 and wounding more than 500 others.

This is a view of the Mandalay Bay hotel from the Fletchers' hotel room. Courtesy photo

The couple’s flight home was scheduled for about 11:40 p.m. Sunday.

They were exhausted when they jumped into a taxi and left early for the airport to catch their flight home. Once at the airport they heard an announcement that there was an active shooting occurring and that all flights were stopped.

Rita Fletcher said she wonders what could have happened if they had waited before leaving.

The two were sitting about 20 minutes in the airport when alarms went off, she said.

People waiting to fly out were never offered an explanation by the airport about the alarms but based on news accounts she said she wonders if a person, or people, fleeing from the nearby shooting broke through the airport gates in their panic to reach safety.

“We made it through airport security; we are probably in the safest place and if people outside were trying to get to safety, that breaks my heart,” she said.

The night of the shooting they were with friends who were playing Blackjack at the MGM Grand.

A friendly young man sat next to them and they all struck up a conversation.

A woman with him was upset, wanting him to hurry so they could get to the concert.

“We did a shot, raised our glasses,” Rita Fletcher said, adding they never saw them again and do not know the fate of the young couple.

“Our thoughts are with him. We are grieving for people we do not know,” she said.

Their plane finally took off about 1:30 Pacific time. Rita Fletcher said she had been thinking of her children.

She knew they were sleeping and did not know of the mass shooting. She did not want to wake them and did not want them to wake up to the news.  She sent them both text messages telling them what had happened and that they were fine.

“You think a lot of things. Have I told the kids I love them? Is everything right in your heart? So many emotions,” she said.