A mechanic fatally wounded in a mass shooting just days before his 24th birthday was compassionate, adventurous and dedicated, his Maple Ridge, B.C. family says.
Jordan McIldoon was at a country music festival in Las Vegas over the weekend when a gunman opened fire from a hotel on the Strip, killing 59 people and injuring more than 500.
Three other Canadians, all women from Alberta, died in the attack: 34-year-old Jessica Klymchuk, 28-year-old Calla Medig and 34-year-old Tara Roe.
Two days after the incident, McIldoon's parents issued a statement to thank strangers for their kindness and to tell the public about their son. He was their only child.
The 23-year-old was just a month away from finishing his heavy duty mechanic apprenticeship, and was proud of what he'd accomplished in the program. He worked for Jacob Bros. Construction in Surrey, and loved his boss and the company.
He would have visited the Okanagan next week to finish his course work and take his exam.
McIldoon was compassionate and "lived a life full of adventures," his parents wrote.
"From a young age, he was fearless. From finding him perched on the roof of the barn at age two or having him leap into the deep end of the lake before he could swim, he was always on the go," Alan and Angela McIldoon said.
He grew up on acreage in Maple Ridge, and was born with a love of the outdoors. McIldoon played hockey, snowboarded, rode dirt bikes, snowmobiled, wakeboarded and was an avid BMX and mountain biker.
And he was brave.
"When on his bike, Jordan could often be seen upside down doing a flip or roaring down a bike park with a cheeky tail whip – he was in his glory."
He had motorcycle and a "big redneck diesel truck," and loved NASCAR and country music. He was rarely seen without his cowboy boots, his parents said.
His friends were like family, and he adored his girlfriend Amber, they wrote.
He also loved his grandmother, who he called "Nana," and always wanted to protect her, his parents said.
"Nana" Ann Norman told CTV News that McIldoon had a big heart, and was very kind, caring and a hard worker.
The night he died, McIldoon's parents said he did his best to make sure his girlfriend was safe, and that they knew if he hadn't been injured he would have helped others as well.
They're grieving the loss of their son, but said they're focusing on the outpouring of love connected to his death, rather than the way he died.
"We choose to focus on love over hatred and are moving forward knowing that Jordan was so incredibly loved by many," they said.
"He was our only child and no words can describe our pain in losing him."
His parents have travelled to Las Vegas to bring McIldoon home one last time.
McIldoon was the only B.C. resident who was fatally wounded in the incident, but two young British Columbians were shot and required hospitalization. Braden Metejka, from Lake Country, said it felt like being hit with a sledgehammer when a bullet grazed his head.
And Victoria resident Sheldon Mack, who was celebrating his 21st birthday, needed surgery after being shot in the abdomen.
PARENTS THANK 'COMPLETE STRANGERS'
In addition to speaking about who their son was, his parents included a message of gratitude to people they've been in touch with since his death.
"We have to share some of the incredible stories of compassion, love and support, many of it from complete strangers, which we have experienced over the last two days," they said.
Air Canada staff moved them to first class and escorted them off the plane, and a manager met them with a limo which took them straight to the Las Vegas police station.
There was a meeting centre for families of victims, where they were supported by counsellors, volunteers, dogs, the coroner, police, chaplains, the Red Cross and more. They also thanked staff at the Canadian consulate, and staff at the hotel where they've stayed.
They thanked those already in their lives, local police, and people they never met before.
"We have had hugs from random strangers," they wrote.
And they directed part of their statement to those who were with their son in his final moments.
"From the people who stayed with Jordan that night and held his hand, to the first responders who had to rush in to an unimaginable scene, we would like to thank everyone for their incredible love and support," the family said.
Calling the night "bedlam and chaotic," they mentioned his girlfriend and a bartender who said McIldoon died in her arms.
In a post on Instagram, his girlfriend Amber wrote that McIldoon showed her what it was like to be loved unconditionally.
"You were truly the love of my life baby," she wrote.
"I can never express how much you meant to me."
She wrote that they'd planned to get married and start a family, and that he will forever be in her heart.
In an interview with CNN Tuesday, bartender Heather Gooze said she had her hand on his hand as he took his final breaths.
"I could kind of feel his fingers wrapped around my hand… I felt like a squeeze on my fingers, and then I just felt the fingers go loose," she said through tears.
"You don't have to be a doctor to know."
Gooze said she was able to unlock his phone by asking Siri to call his mother, then she told Angela McIldoon that she wouldn't leave his side.
"I just didn't want him to be a John Doe" she said.
READ THE FULL STATEMENT FROM MCILDOON'S FAMILY
The following is the full statement released from McIldoon's parents, Alan and Angela:
October 3, 2017
Our son, Jordan, was a compassionate young man who lived a life full of adventures. From a young age, he was fearless. From finding him perched on the roof of the barn at age two or having him leap into the deep end of the lake before he could swim, he was always on the go. He grew up on our acreage in Maple Ridge and so a love of the outdoors was born within him.
He loved playing hockey and snowboarding. He was an avid BMX rider and a talented downhill mountain biker, spending many summers in Whistler. When on his bike, Jordan could often be seen upside down doing a flip or roaring down a bike park with a cheeky tail whip – he was in his glory. He loved riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle and driving his big redneck diesel truck. He loved NASCAR and country music and was rarely seen out of his cowboy boots.
Jordan was at his happiest while at our beloved cabin at Missezula Lake. There he spent countless hours riding dirt bikes, wakeboarding, snowmobiling and hanging with his friends from the community who were like his family.
Jordan was a month shy of finishing his heavy duty mechanic apprenticeship. He was so proud that he was almost done and he loved his company, Jacob Bros Construction, especially his boss, Rick.
Jordan was a family man and was living on our property with his adored girlfriend Amber and, of course, his beloved Nana who he loved deeply and always wanted to protect.
We have to share some of the incredible stories of compassion, love and support, many of it from complete strangers, which we have experienced over the last two days. Air Canada flight attendants and crew were incredibly supportive, moving us into First Class and escorting us first off the plane, to the Air Canada manager who met us and took us directly to a limo they had arranged to take us to the police station. At the family meeting place, we were supported by counsellors, volunteers, assistance dogs, the coroner, police, chaplains, Red Cross, and more. The Canadian Consular staff have been a huge help to us. The MGM Signature Hotel has provided us with a complimentary suite. We have had hugs from random strangers. I am a 30 year employee of ICBC and my colleagues and friends at work have been unwavering in their love and support. Sgt Mitch Fox from the Ridge Meadows RCMP has been a huge help to our family in making sure our property and Nana are secure and safe while we are away dealing with this.
From the people who stayed with Jordan that night and held his hand, to the first responders who had to rush in to an unimaginable scene, we would like to thank everyone for their incredible love and support. Jordan did his best to make sure Amber was safe and we know he would have helped others had he not been injured himself.
We choose to focus on love over hatred and are moving forward knowing that Jordan was so incredibly loved by many. His was a life well lived. He was our only child and no words can describe our pain in losing him.
The family is asking the media to please respect their privacy in this difficult time. There is nothing further for release.