LAS VEGAS, NV (KTNV) — For three years the official death toll of the 1 October mass shooting in Las Vegas was 58. And two survivors who passed away later from complications directly related to their injuries in the incident were not initially added to that count until Thursday.
Those latest deaths connected to the shooting were announced but never formally added to the initial 58 until this year's first day in October.
And 13 Investigates has been trying to figure out why it took time for the change.
The two who recently passed were very much the same as the other 58. They had a passion for country music and were enjoying the Route 91 Harvest Festival that evening in 2017.
But, now, their families also have something in common too with the other victims from that evening - broken hearts from the loss of their loved ones connected to that event.
For months, Las Vegas police stood firm. Acknowledging the two recent deaths as being tied to the 1 October shootings, but declining to change the official toll from 58 to 60.
We repeatedly asked why Las Vegan Samanta Arjune and Kim Gervais from California were not being counted, but Las Vegas police offered no explanation.
Wednesday, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Chris Jones sent a statement saying, "Due to the number and severity of injuries, we realized early on that many victims faced years of recovery and that delayed deaths were likely to occur. While the initial toll remains at 58, we understand that additional victims have since passed. We honor their memories and know that many, along with our community, continue to heal."
For perspective, 13 Action News reached out to UNLV Criminal Justice Professor Bill Sousa.
“When it comes to mass casualty events, there really isn't a rule, In terms of the timeframe, cities have to consider the tally of fatalities that are linked to that event,” Sousa said.
Professor Sousa goes on to say, “In the end, it doesn't take away from the tragedy. And so having some discretion here isn't necessarily a bad thing.”
After 13 Investigates and other media continued asking questions, Sheriff Lombardo appears to be using that discretion.
At Thursday's sunrise remembrance, LVMPD changed the official count.
“There has been some controversy recently on two additional individuals that lost their lives as a result of 1 October and our failure to recognize those individuals,” Lombardo said. “Now there’s a little bit of a policy or procedure associated with that. And I think it’s important that we recognize those individuals today and to bring the number of 58 to 60. And that will be the number moving forward as of today.”
The family of Samanta Arjune, who they call Sam, tells us they're very happy and thankful for that message as they always believed both Sam and Kim should be included. They say it helps with the healing process.
"She went with two other friends, one walked out. She was in the hospital rendered quadriplegic and the other she saw die in front of her,” says Kim’s sister Dena Sarvela.
Sarvela spoke with KPTV in Portland.
Kim passed away in November and her daughter described her as a "kind, amazing mother and friend" on a GoFundMe page.
A California coroner ruled in August that Kim's death was caused by gunshot injuries she suffered in 2017 at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival.
"She was ready to go abroad and enjoy life and it was snatched from her,” said Sarvela.
While Sam passed away on May 26. She was 49 years old. The Clark County coroner classified her death as a homicide due to complications from the gunshot wound in her leg.
By phone, Sam's father said his child was taken from him. And for the past three years, they had to watch their daughter suffer, Sam lying in bed on her back saying"Dad, I'm in pain."
The family didn't understand why Sam and Kim were not immediately counted along with the other 58. Her father had called it "grossly unjust."
“There's really no right way to do this,” Prof. Sousa said. “And people can argue in a few different ways for whether it should be a particular death be attributed directly to the event that happens sometimes later.”
13 Investigates learned there are no guidelines on this and it varies in different cities and jurisdictions.
But the bottom line is with all accounted for in the official count of 60, those families can heal together.
The Vegas Resiliency Center sent the following statement:
"Since opening on Oct. 23, 2017, the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center has served more than 10,000 people impacted by the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting tragedy. The Resiliency Center supports those affected in numerous ways, including crisis counseling and spiritual care, victim compensation, and legal assistance."
Anyone who the coroner declares to have died from injuries sustained at the shooting is entitled to a bereaved family's benefits.
13 Investigates will remain dedicated to connecting people with resources to help them build strength and resiliency in the aftermath.
And individuals affected by the 1 October event are encouraged to reach out to the Resiliency Center to receive support or services by calling 702-455-2433 or online.
Representatives also say the committee in charge of the Healing Garden wants to hear from the families and the community as to how Sam and Kim can be included in the permanent memorial.