Sandy Casey was among the 59 people killed in the Las Vegas shooting late Sunday night near the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival.
Casey, 35, a special-education teacher from Redondo Beach, was with a group of Manhattan Beach Unified teachers, principals and staff members who attended the concert over the weekend.
Casey Was a Special Education Teacher
Manhattan Beach Unified officials shared the news of Casey’s death Monday morning.
“Her parents ask for prayers and privacy for her sisters, coworkers, students and large extended family,” her family said.
She was originally from Vermont, but worked at Manhattan Beach Middle School in California, according to KGTV in San Diego.
“As you can imagine, this loss is impacting many of our staff members deeply, and while we collectively grieve, we will be working to provide support to everyone affected,” the superintendent said in a letter sent to families within the school district.
Manhattan Beach Middle School Principal Kim Linz, teacher Debbie Dreiling, school psychologists Marjorie Questin and Emily Allen, Mira Costa High School instructional assistant Chris Willemse and Pennekamp Elementary School Principal Karina Gerger also attended the festival, but were unharmed.
Casey Attended The Festival With Her Fiancé
Casey was engaged to be married and attended the concert with her fiancé, Christopher Willemse, according to a family statement given to the Burlington Free Press.
Willemse, a behavioral therapist in the district, told the Washington Post that he and Casey shared a love of country music.
They spent seven years as colleagues at Manhattan Beach Middle School, and were together for three years as a couple.
“She was just a kind soul and she was full of life and loved to live it,” Willemse told the Washington Post. “She made everybody smile, she was an excellent teacher and loved the kids she taught. Everyone who meets her never forgets her.”
The two got engaged while on vacation in New Zealand in April, and were in the process of planning their wedding. At the end of this month, they planned to check out one last wedding venue.
Willemse recounted Sunday’s tragic shooting to the Washington Post. He told the newspaper that their group of friends had gathered in front of the stage and dropped to the ground when shots rang out. Casey said she was shot and couldn’t feel her legs.
He plugged her wound with his finger and carried her in his arms as he tried to dodge gunfire.
“When she stopped responding, he told her that he loved her and that she was amazing,” the Washington Post reported.
Willemse shared a photo of the two of them smiling on Facebook Monday morning.
“As I sit and mourn such a beautiful life gone too fast, all I can say is look up and watch the birds fly high and free today as that’s where I feel you smiling down upon all of us,” he wrote. “I love you baby girl! Love you to pieces!”
Casey’s Family Is Asking for Prayers
In a Facebook post, Willemse thanked friends and family for their support amidst the tragic event, he wrote:
“The love and support that she and I have received during these trying times just shows how important this wonderful woman truly was. She lived life to the fullest and made me the happiest man in the world. Im so grateful for the kind words and gestures, it means the world to me, especially for her.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted when he learned of Casey’s death, saying he and his wife, Jane, were “deeply saddened to hear that Vermonter Sandy Casey was among the victims in Vegas. Our hearts are with her friends & family.”
Anyone Wishing to Help Is Asked to Donate Blood for Injured Victims
The Associated Press reports that about 22,000 country music fans were in the crowd when the shooting began.
Headliner Jason Aldean was on the stage when shots rang out. A video posted on social media captured the moment the gunshots began, forcing Aldean to stop mid-song and leave the stage.
Witnesses reported that a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Casino. Police later found the shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, dead in a Mandalay Bay hotel room where he had at least 10 rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
The shooting claimed 59 lives so far and more than 500 have been injured.
If you would like to donate blood to help victims injured by the shooting, visit the Labor Health & Welfare Clinic, 7135 W. Sahara, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The LVPD also urged families who are hoping to track down loved ones, to call 1-866-535-5654.
The Las Vegas Shooting Is the Deadliest U.S. Shooting
In the deadliest mass shooting in recent American history, more than 59 people, including an off-duty Las Vegas police officer were killed in Las Vegas on Sunday.