A photo of a man lying on top of a woman in a bid to shield her from the gunfire during the Las Vegas mass shooting has gone viral.
The photo was taken by Getty photographer David Becker, the Daily Mail reported. He attended the Route 91 Harvest country music festival on Oct. 1 in Las Vegas, where Stephen Paddock opened fire on 22,000 attendees from across the street on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
It was not clear at first if the woman in the photo was dead, or if she had been seriously injured. With at least 59 confirmed deaths, and more than 500 others injured, the shooting was quickly recognized as the largest mass shooting in recent U.S. history.
Becker issued a statement to several media outlets describing the horrific night, and the story behind the powerful photo.
"I don't know if she was injured but he was very clearly shielding her with his body and protecting her," Becker said. "I saw them both get up and run away."
Becker said he went into the media tent to edit his photos when the first shots were fired. He said the shots were thought to be firecrackers at first.
"I went outside to see what was happening and a security guy said it was just 'firecrackers,' so I went back to work," Becker recalled. "The second time I heard the popping sounds somebody said to me 'it was just speakers or sound equipment' and again, I went back into the media tent and continued to work. Then the noises went again and that was when the crowd started to flee."
Becker continued taking pictures as attendees began fleeing. He said he was still unaware of the gunfire at the time.
"It was so dark I couldn't really see what was happening, there were a lot of people crying, speaking on cellphones and ducking for cover," Becker said. "As the crowd thinned out I was able to go a little closer to try and see what was going on and take some more pictures, and I'm still thinking to myself 'it's just the speakers, there is nothing going on.'"
He continued describing the scene: "There were groups of people helping each other everywhere and a real sense of people running for cover. People were fleeing, they were panicking. The gun fire was sporadic, it would stop and then more shots, then a lull and then more shots. I could hear people yelling at them to shut off the lights, to be quiet."
"People were cowering, they were very fearful for their lives," the photographer added. "A woman tripped right in front of me, a man shielded a woman with his body before I saw them both get up and run away, a man in a wheelchair was helped to an exit."
Becker eventually called a colleague, and realized police issued a "code red" and shut down the area.
"It was then I started looking at my photographs and what I was seeing was just unbelievable. It had been so dark outside I couldn't see the details, I just saw a lot of people laying on the ground thinking they were playing possum, but now I could see people covered in blood and I thought, this is real," Becker said. "When I saw the image of the woman lying on the ground covered in blood, that was when the impact of what I was experiencing hit; when I realized people were dying."
Investigators have not yet determined a motive behind Paddock's attack. He reportedly encouraged his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, to leave the country before the attack, Danley's sisters told CNN affiliate in Australia's Seven News.
"I know that she don't know anything as well like us. She was sent away," the sister, who wished to be unnamed, told the news station. "She was away so that she will be not there to interfere with what he's planning."
"In that sense, I thank him for sparing my sister's life," she said, adding that Danley was "really in love with Steve."