Desperate Families Search For Loved Ones After Harrowing Texts

Angel Mendez trying to get information about his brother Jean C. Mendez

Family members are desperately posting to social media and calling friends as they have trouble finding loved ones today in the aftermath of a mass shooting Sunday at an Orlando gay nightclub that has left 50 dead and 53 injured.

Jessenia Marquez is one of those still looking for her loved one. Her cousin Brenda McCool, 49, a mother of 11, was last seen at Pulse nightclub in Orlando as the shooting started on Saturday night.

Marquez, who lives in Deltona, said her daughter Kassandra Marquez, 23 and nephew Isaiah who were with McCool, were able to survive the hail of gunfire and escape the club. McCool has not yet been located. 

"We tried to go to Orlando Regional Hospital and we just had to wait," she said in a phone interview. "There were so many people, it was a very scary thing." Marquez said the hospital was on lockdown and they weren't letting anyone in or out. "We sat there for hours and hours," she said. 

Brenda McCool

Marquez said this was the first time her daughter had been to the nightclub and she went with older family and friends to ensure that she would be safe. At the time of our first interview, her daughter was lying in bed, too traumatized to talk. "My daughter and my cousin, they were all together in a group. My daughter ended up in a bathroom stall with a bunch of people on top of her," Marquez said, explaining how her daughter survived. "She says that she heard and it sounded like firecrackers. Everybody started running in different directions, they just hid in the bathroom."

Marquez's nephew had returned to the hospital to search for his mother. He told Marquez that he witnessed another man get shot in the head, and he was able to get to a door and escape.

Crying on the phone, Marquez asked anyone with information about her cousin to reach out to her on Facebook. "Even if they saw her just laying there," she said explaining that she hadn't been able to get through to any of the missing persons hotlines.

At 8 p.m. on Sunday, Marquez said she expected her cousin was among those who died on the dance floor.  

There are many others. Mina Justice told ABC news that she hasn't heard from her 30-year-old son Eddie since shooting broke out. Justice said he texted her to call police. He'd hid in the bathroom with other patrons. He then texted her: "He's coming."

"The next text said: 'He has us, and he's in here with us,'" Justice told reporters. "That was the last conversation." Justice was among those pronounced dead early Monday morning. 

Christine Leinonen spoke with reporters in hopes to find her missing son Christopher "Drew" Leinonen who has not been located. Juan Ramon Guerrero, identified as Leinonen's boyfriend, has been pronounced dead. "They said there's a lot of dead bodies in the club and that it's a crime scene ... so it could be hours and hours before we find out. The hospital said there are some bodies at the hospital that came in and they died and they're not identifiable yet either," Leinonen told ABC News.

Jose Horoato told WTLV/WJXX he was searching for his brother Miguel, a father of three who went missing last night at the club. He went out with friends and hasn't been seen since. 

Meanwhile, Martin Torres' cousin, Maria Arocho, was still looking for him after visiting Orlando Regional Medical Center. Arocho tearfully told Florida Today that Torres had gone to the club with his boyfriend but hasn't been seen since. "Everyone is just a wreck, "she said. "We are so nervous." 

According to the Washington Post, Jeffrey Rodriguez texted his brother: “I’m bleeding so much and I don’t think I’m going to make it. Call mom and dad and tell them I love them.” Rodriguez may be in critical condition, according to video reports from hospital officials below.

Police have set up a hotline at (407) 246-4357 for family to call to help locate missing loved ones.

Watch Leinonen talk about searching for her son.

 

 

 

 

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