(NEXSTAR) – As police intensify their search for the gunman who killed at least 18 people at a bowling alley in Maine, survivors are recounting how they escaped the shooting that thrust the state’s second-largest city into chaos Wednesday night.
The shooting started at the Sparetime Recreation bowling alley in Lewiston around 7 p.m.
A man who identified himself only by his first name, Brandon, said he was only at the alley for a few minutes for a solo night of bowling when he heard a loud pop that he initially thought was a balloon. Then, he saw the gunman.
“I had my back turned to the door,” he told the Associated Press. “And as soon as I turned and saw it was not a balloon, [the suspect] was holding a weapon, I just booked it.”
Brandon said he heard ten gunshots, ran down a bowling lane without his shoes on, slid into the area where the pins reside, and climbed into the machinery to hide until police arrived.
“I was putting on my bowling shoes when it started. I’ve been barefoot for five hours,” he said in the early Thursday morning interview.
10-year-old girl and mom barricaded themselves in room
Zoey Levesque, 10, was at the alley for a practice session with her youth bowling league when shots rang out.
A bullet grazed the young girl as she and her mom, Meghan Hutchinson, were running from the gunman, Good Morning America reported.
“It’s scary,” Levesque said in an interview with the outlet. “I had never thought I’d grow up and get a bullet in my leg. And it’s just like, why? Why do people do this?”
Hutchinson said she, her daughter, and other families barricaded themselves in a back room for about 20 minutes.
“While we were in the back room, another child came in whose arm had a massive hole in it and he was bleeding profusely,” Hutchinson said.
She said another parent called 911 as they hid. Meanwhile, Hutchinson moved a shelf in front of the room door until officers came to rescue them. When police did arrive, Hutchinson said everyone was afraid to let them inside. The officers eventually forced their way in and took the survivors to the parking lot.
“This was probably the worst night of our lives,” she said.
‘Felt like it lasted a lifetime’
Another family at the site of the shooting said they laid on top of each other to shield themselves. Riley Dumont told ABC News her 11-year-old daughter was also participating in a children’s bowling league when the gunman stormed in.
Dumont said her father, a retired police officer, corralled them into a corner and placed tables and a bench in front of them.
“I was lying on top of my daughter. My mother was lying on top of me,” she said. “It felt like it lasted a lifetime.”
A police intelligence bulletin identified Robert Card, who was trained as a firearms instructor at a U.S. Army Reserve training facility in Maine, as the person of interest in the shooting.
Police had taken him for an evaluation in July after military officials became concerned that he was acting erratically, a U.S. official told The Associated Press.
Card is facing an arrest warrant for eight counts of murder. Police said he should be considered armed and dangerous.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.