Holly Redman and James Williams were enjoying a drink at Ned Peppers Bar in Dayton, Ohio, before deciding to cross the street and try out another bar.
Then, just minutes after entering their new destination, a rain of gunshots rang out as an active shooter opened fire on the busy streets of Dayton’s popular nightlife area.
“We were in there for about three minutes and all of a sudden you heard ‘pew pew pew pew pew.’ And the guy said, ‘Everybody back, it’s a shooting,’ ” Redman, 31, recalls to PEOPLE. “Everybody went back, but we stood by the bar away from the window.”
“The gunshots were so loud, it sounded like it was right out front of this bar, but it actually wasn’t,” Williams, 50, adds. “This went on for like 50 shots or so. It was like, ‘Wow, is it ever going to stop?’ “
The decision to leave their original location had ultimately saved their life, Williams explained, as the shooter’s bullets fired down on the street where they had been sitting just moments before.
He described the scene as a “domino effect of people laying everywhere.”
“If we wouldn’t have got up and walked away, where we were sitting, we probably would have been hit by the round of bullets that had been shot,” the Aerospace ground mechanic tells PEOPLE, recalling the horrific events that unfolded.
“[The shooter] shot everybody lined up along the fenced area to get to the bar,” he adds. “We were on the other side. If we hadn’t gotten up and walked down the street within that three to five minutes… We would have been shot.”
Nine people were killed in a mass shooting on the streets of Dayton early Sunday morning, marking the second mass shooting in the United States in less than 24 hours, police announced. On Saturday, 20 were killed in a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
Williams and Redman were among the first few to run out into the scene to try and help the victims after the shooter was confronted by police — sharing with PEOPLE the “devastating” sight they were faced with, calling it a “war zone.”
“As soon as the shooting went off it got quiet and we heard people say, ‘Help, we need help,’ ” Redman says. “James went to the door and said, ‘I need to get out there. We need to help people.’ “
After being let out of the bar, Williams began making a makeshift tourniquet out of his belt and Redman, who is CPR certified, tried to save a man who was losing a lot of blood from a gunshot wound near his groin.
“I saw a girl giving chest compressions to a man on the ground. There were so many people on the ground. Some were dead already. It was awful. It was the worst thing,” she recalls. “I go over there and start breathing into his mouth. And the girl that was there would do 30 chest compressions. And when I breathed into his mouth, I felt his lungs expand and I could feel him gargling.”
Redman then tried to stop the bleeding, taking off her own shirt and using it to apply pressure to the wound.
“Holly actually took off her shirt. There she was in the bra,” Williams says. “She folded up her shirt. She couldn’t get the blood to stop with her hands, so she folded up her shirt and she used her shirt to stop the blood.”
“We tried to save him. But he died,” Redman adds, crying. “He died right in front of me.”
The pair said there simply wasn’t enough people to help save the injured from the shooting, which resulted in the death of nine people. “The ones that weren’t injured that bad, but had gunshot wounds, we were carrying them to the ambulances,” Williams said.
Authorities released the names of the victims: Lois Oglesby, 27; Megan Betts, 22; Sayid Saleh, 28; Derek Fudge, 57; Logan Turner, 30; Nicholas Cumer, 25; Thomas McNichols, 25; Beatrice Warren Curtis, 26; Monica Brickhouse, 29.
Dayton police said on Twitter that the shooter was also killed after he was confronted by police within a minute of opening fire. The attack began at 1:05 a.m. in the city’s Oregon District and left 27 others injured.
At a press conference, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said the shooter was wearing body armor and carrying a .223-caliber rifle while also carrying high-capacity magazines.
Whaley said that if not for the quick police response, “hundreds of people in the Oregon District could be dead today,” reports the Associated Press.
“They just had a shooting at Walmart [in El Paso]. This world. This world is so sad right now,” says Redman. “It’s so sad.”