Orlando victim's last moments: 'Eddie saved his partner's life'

Natasha Zouves Image
ByNatasha Zouves KGO logo
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Orlando victim's last moments: 'Eddie saved his partner's life'
Forty-nine people died in the Orlando nightclub shooting, and now we're learning about one victim's final act to keep his partner out of harm's way.

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- Eddie Sotomayor was one of the first victims identified after the Orlando shooting. We now know more about the moments before he died and his final act: making sure his partner was out of harm's way.

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"I completely believe that Eddie saved his partner's life by not allowing him to come back into the Pulse Nightclub," said Al Ferguson.

ABC7 News Anchor Natasha Zouves spoke with Ferguson on the phone from Sarasota, Florida. Ferguson owns the travel agency that Eddie worked for, and says Eddie texted him a final Snapchat video 23 minutes before the shooting started. In the video, Eddie is standing next to his partner, Luis. The couple had been together for three years.

Ferguson says when shots rang out, Eddie was inside of the nightclub but Luis was outside. Eddie texted his partner to not come back into the club, and to instead go straight to a house for safety.

"His partner followed his instructions, and approximately 25 minutes to 30 minutes later, (Eddie sent) another text saying that he was hiding, but he was safe. And that was the last time his partner heard from him," said Ferguson.

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Mourners gather at memorial in the Castro District in San Francisco, Monday, June 13, 2016.

Later, Al Ferguson accompanied Luis to Orlando Regional Medical Center. Ferguson says Luis was "frantic" with worry. That's where they learned Eddie had been killed in the shooting. Ferguson says making sure his partner was safe was completely in line with Eddie's character.

"It's absolutely who he was," said Ferguson. "He expressed so many times his concern when the Paris Attacks took place... he encouraged people to change their profiles to the French colors and how important it was to go to Paris to support them. The same with Brussels."

After his death became public, tributes started coming in. Lady Gaga mentioned Eddie in an Instagram post. On social media, the image of a top hat started circulating in his honor.

Eddie was 34 years old, and a world traveler. Among his accomplishments, Ferguson says Eddie introduced the first gay cruise to Cuba just this year. He worked as a National Brand Coordinator for ALandCHUCK Travel. Although Eddie was aware of the safety risks for gay travelers in some countries, Ferguson says it was important for Eddie to fight that fear.

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"He kept explaining that the best way to change attitudes in Cuba was for gay America to go to Cuba," said Ferguson.

Ferguson remembers Eddie for his magnetic personality.

"Eddie was attractive, he was bright, he was very funny... people wanted to be around him," said Ferguson. "The number one thing he would want you to remember is that we can't allow this to define us, that we won't be afraid."

John Kolesar, of Alameda, went on two cruises that Eddie helped organize.

"I think he was just trying to be accepted, like everyone else," said Kolesar.

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"Before I even heard that Eddie was involved, I was disgusted and shocked and sad. Sad that the gay community is still being targeted in the year 2016, anywhere, let alone in Florida," said Kolesar.

"Children have been targeted, gays have been targeted, every race has been targeted. It's time we do something."

Kolesar says he thinks Eddie would have wanted people to continue to fight for acceptance. He says Eddie was helping to organize another trip to The Mediterranean later this year.

"I was actually thinking about cancelling that trip for financial reasons," said Kolesar. "Now, I'll be damned, I'm going."

Eddie Sotomayor will be laid to rest on June 25. If you'd like to help his family with funeral expenses, you can click here to donate to their GoFundMe page.

A GoFundMe account has been set up for the victims and families of the mass shooting in Orlando, click here for more information.

Click here for full coverage on the deadly mass shooting in Orlando.