LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nicholas and Anthony Robone are about as close as two brothers can be.
They are the only two kids in their family, born and raised in Las Vegas. Nick and Tony share a passion for ice hockey, and as boys used their tape-wrapped hockey sticks to knock a puck around the street.
Tony followed Nick in becoming a defenseman, and joined him as a student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. A year ago, they pooled their money to buy the three-bedroom house they share.
So it wasn’t unusual that they were together at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Oct. 1 when a gunman opened fire on the crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, striking Nick, 28, in the upper chest and forcing firefighter and paramedic Tony, 25, into the role of his big brother’s rescuer.
Nick was at the country music festival with a three-day pass his parents gave him for his September birthday. ”It was going to be a fun night to hang out,” he said.
Tony, with the Henderson County Fire Department, couldn’t join his brother the first two days, but arrived at the festival grounds at about 8:30 p.m. on the final night after attending the Vegas Golden Knights professional hockey game. The brothers were with a few friends in the middle of the main stage area.
County music singer Jason Aldean was just a few songs into his set when the popping sounds started after 10 p.m. and Nick felt a piercing pain in his left side. A bullet had entered his chest right above his heart and lung, and traveled down to his side muscle, missing organs but badly bruising the lung.
Tony treated Nick’s wound as round after round of gunfire rained down on the panicked crowd. In the end, 58 people died. Hundreds were injured in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Tony told a news conference two days after the shooting that he and their friend Billy Tufano, an emergency medical technician, helped get Nick to the east side of the stage where they hid behind a police car. They later continued farther east, and eventually got Nick into an ambulance.
Critically injured, Nick was in surgery for four hours, in intensive care at Sunrise Hospital for five days, and released after 10 days.
Three weeks after the shooting, Nick is home recovering. He gets around pretty well on his own, he said in a telephone interview last week. He’s expected to make a full recovery.
”There won’t be any real rehab to speak off,” he said. ”Just walk around a few times a day,” do some regular breathing exercises and eat a good diet.
Nick has credited quick attention by his brother and friends at the concert for saving his life. Tony ”NEVER left my side,” he said in a tweet.
Doctors have estimated it will be six to eight weeks before he can return to work, he said.
Nick said he’s received unconditional support from Topgolf, an entertainment property with a driving range and restaurants where he’s employed in marketing. He also is an assistant ice hockey coach at his alma mater, where the Rebels hockey team and its fans have rallied around him.
With the VegasStrong hashtag scrawled on signs throughout the City National Arena, the ”Skatin’ Rebels” won their home game 8-0 in Nick’s honor the Friday after the massacre. A few days later, he felt well enough to visit the team and promise, ”I’ll be back.”
”My brother is the toughest guy I know,” Tony said. ”And I think the amount of support from the community, from the hockey community, from the firefighter community, it just represents and reflects the kind of guy he is.”
The feeling is mutual. ”My brother is a really great guy,” Nick said.