Vancouver woman searching for strangers who saved sister’s life - KPTV - FOX 12

Vancouver woman searching for strangers who saved sister’s life in Las Vegas shooting

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Vancouver resident Dena Sarvela (right) immediately dropped everything and flew to Las Vegas after hearing her sister Kim Gervais (left) was among the victims in the horrific mass shooting Sunday night. (courtesy Dena Sarvela) Vancouver resident Dena Sarvela (right) immediately dropped everything and flew to Las Vegas after hearing her sister Kim Gervais (left) was among the victims in the horrific mass shooting Sunday night. (courtesy Dena Sarvela)
(KPTV) -

A Vancouver woman is searching for the couple that saved the life of her sister during the chaotic minutes of the Las Vegas massacre.

Dena Sarvela said her sister was hit in the back by a bullet and is now a quadriplegic recovering in a Las Vegas hospital.

Sarvela said her sister, Kim Gervais, of Mira Loma, California, attends the Route 91 Harvest festival each year and went to the country music event last weekend with two of her friends, adding that one of those friends died in the shooting and the other escaped uninjured.

When Sarvela found out her sister was in critical condition, she dropped everything and got on a plane.

Speaking to FOX 12 by phone from Las Vegas Wednesday morning, she said her sister, like many of the thousands of attendees, thought the popping noises were fireworks at first and kept watching Jason Aldean perform Sunday night until she realized something was wrong.

“She was in shock,” Sarvela said. “She just said it felt like it was like a burning sensation. She didn’t know exactly what was going on. She knew she was hit, but she didn’t know how bad.”

Sarvela found out about her sister’s injuries through her niece, one of Gervais’ daughters. Her daughters heard about the shooting and were frantically trying to reach their mother.

A stranger answered their mother’s phone in Las Vegas.

“Come to find out this couple saved her life,” Sarvela explained. “They took her out (of the festival) so she wouldn’t be laying there. They took her to the hospital, and I would really love to find this couple. I want to give them a hug – I want to thank them so much. The gentleman covered my sister, he covered her body so that she stayed down, so nothing else hit her.”

Sarvela said her sister didn’t get their names but was coherent enough in the hospital to tell her about the people they both believe saved her life.

“The gentleman threw himself over on top of my sister and told the other girl who survived to run,” Sarvela said. “I’m really grateful that she wasn’t alone.”

Sarvela said the couple, between the gunfire and helped by others, carried her sister out of the venue, flagged down a passing driver and took her to the hospital.

Doctors told Sarvela it’s a miracle Gervais survived, saying had she not turned her body right before the bullet hit, she would have likely died almost immediately.

Sarvela said the bullet is still lodged in her sister’s back, and doctors said it isn’t safe for them to remove it.

Gervais doesn’t have much feeling below her shoulders, but Sarvela said there’s a glimmer of good news. Her sister has been able to move her fingertips and has started some light physical therapy.

“The anger hasn’t set in yet, just the confusion, the shock,” Sarvela said of her own feelings toward the shooting. “I was so happy to see her eyes last night. That was the best gift ever.”

Sarvela describes her sister as a wonderful mother of two and grandmother with four grandchildren and another one on the way. She said Gervais is a small business owner in California and a widow who lost her husband 17 years ago.

“She is an amazing lady. She is so strong,” Sarvela said. “She has lifted herself up from so many situations, so much in her life. Most people would have given up, not her. She’s still fighting.”

One of Gervais’ daughters set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for her recovery and bills, and as of midday Wednesday, more than $14,500 had been raised.

Sarvela said she’s grateful for the support and said her sister deserves it.

“She is amazing. She is beautiful inside and out. She would be the first one to give her shirt off her back or anything anybody needed.”

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