Las Vegas shooting: Surgeon whose husband died shielding her from gunfire says 'he saved my life'

Heather and Sonny Melton are seen here at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas before the shooting happened. PlayHeather Melton
WATCH Las Vegas Shooting witnesses, victims recall their day before: Part 1

Heather Melton still has her husband Sonny Melton’s favorite shirt. It’s a concert tee featuring the country music star Eric Church.

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But soon, she said, she is going to bury him in it.

“This shirt has kind of become a symbol of him to me, and I’ll always remember him wearing this shirt,” she said.

Heather Melton, an orthopedic surgeon from Big Sandy, Tennessee, and Sonny Melton, a nurse, were both attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas Sunday night when a gunman opened fire on the crowd, killing 58 with some 500 people injured.

Heather Melton survived, but her husband, who had shielded her from the bullets, was killed.

“He protected me,” she said. “He saved my life.”

Heather and Sonny Melton are seen here together in this family photo. Heather Melton
Heather and Sonny Melton are seen here together in this family photo.

Heather Melton said she met Sonny Melton five years ago at a bar and the two hit it off. At the time, she had three children and says she was going through a difficult divorce, but that Sonny was there for her.

“Sonny helped me through probably the most difficult time in my life,” she said. “So I always say he saved me once, and now he has saved me again.”

Sonny Melton became an RN after they met, and Heather said that for the past two months, he had been working alongside her in the operating room as a surgical assistant. They loved to go to concerts together and on Thursday, Sept. 28, Heather Melton said she and Sonny had done a couple of surgeries together and went to the airport to fly to Vegas for the music festival.

Heather and Sonny Melton are seen here together in this family photo. Heather Melton
Heather and Sonny Melton are seen here together in this family photo.

Heather Melton said she and Sonny Melton saw several other country stars perform at the festival, including Sonny’s favorite, Eric Church, and Big and Rich.

“Big and Rich were playing … ‘God Bless America’ and the whole crowd was singing at the top of their lungs,” she said. “Everybody had their phone lights up and it was just a really nice atmosphere. That was about an hour before the shooting started.”

On Sunday night, Heather Melton said she and Sonny Melton were dancing and singing together as Jason Aldean, the festival’s final headliner, performed. Then, she said, suddenly she heard “loud banging noises.”

“I actually turned to Sonny and I said, ‘Was that a gun?’ and he said, ‘I don’t think so,’ because the music was very loud,” she said. “And then there came a longer series of shots and I said, ‘I think that’s guns.’ And then the third time it was even longer. And that’s when Jason Aldean ran off the stage.”

People started running, Heather Melton said, but they couldn’t tell where the gunfire was coming from, whether it was inside the venue or coming from the outside.

“I said to Sonny, ‘We just need to get down,’” Heather Melton said. “And he said, ‘No, we can’t get down because we’ll get trampled.’ And that’s when he just wrapped his arms around me from behind and we started running. And that’s when I felt him get shot in the back and we fell to the ground.”

Heather Melton said she felt the impact of the bullet hitting her husband's body as he was holding her. When they fell to the ground, Melton said she then quickly tried to find the wound, and Sonny became unconscious.

“I couldn’t feel a pulse,” she said. “There were still bullets flying all around us.”

“They actually shut the lights off of the stage,” Heather Melton continued. “And there was just darkness, and I could just see images around me of people on the ground … people running. It was like you were thrown into a battlefield.”

When the gunfire finally did stop, Heather Melton said she started screaming for someone to help. Finally, she was able to get two men to help her carry Sonny off the field. She said they put him on the back of a pickup truck with two other victims and took off for the hospital. Heather Melton said they ended up at one of the smaller hospitals, not a trauma center, but they were the first people to arrive there.

“I was covered in Sonny’s blood,” she said. “I was in so much shock and pain at the time that I felt like I couldn’t even breathe.”

It wasn’t very long after they arrived at the hospital that Heather Melton said she knew her husband was gone.

“Really in my heart, I feel like it happened on the field,” she said.

After he was pronounced dead, she said she leaned over, kissed him and hugged him, but then doctors told her they were bringing in another trauma.

“So they asked me to leave,” she said. “And that was the last time I saw him.”

Shortly after, Heather Melton said a friend came and sat with her. She began calling Sonny’s family members and talking with hospital officials about next steps.

“The hospital had a chaplain who came and spoke with me, and some other representatives who were trying to tell me about talking to the coroner, and the morgue, and whatever else needed to be done. But those things, they don't register at that time,” she said. “And I just remember the homicide detectives walking in to talk to me, and I just wanted to run away. Like, … ‘I don't want to be the person you need to talk to,’ but I am. And finally, I don't even remember what time it was, maybe 3:00 in the morning, they let us leave.”

The next day, she told her three children what had happened.

“I told my children the next day,” she said. “I wanted to tell them before they saw it on the news, and they’re completely grief-stricken. He was the best stepdad they could ever have, and he loved them like they were his own children.”

Heather Melton is seen here with her three children and her husband, Sonny Melton, in this undated family photo. Heather Melton
Heather Melton is seen here with her three children and her husband, Sonny Melton, in this undated family photo.

As she was preparing to make her way back to Tennessee, Heather Melton said she had to come to terms with her husband’s body being put into the cargo hold of the plane.

“I’m going back with two suitcases and my husband’s going to be in the cargo,” she said. “This is not how I want to fly back with him. It’s just almost unbearable to think about.”

As she tries to rebuild her life and move forward, Heather Melton said she is focusing on her children. One of the hardest parts, she said, is not being able to hear Sonny's voice.

She doesn’t want to know anything about the shooter.

“I actually don’t have anger,” she said. “But I refuse to even think about the demon that shot and killed so many people. I don’t even know his name, and I don’t want to know his name.”

ABC News' Lynn Redmond and Katie O'Brien contributed to this report.