WAUKESHA, Wis. — Authorities on Monday were investigating why the driver of an SUV hurtled through a barricade and slammed into a Christmas parade in suburban Waukesha on Sunday, killing at least five people and injuring more than 40.
Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said the numbers could change because many people took themselves to hospitals in the chaotic minutes after the tragedy.
The city’s livestream captured video of the crash, and numerous spectators recorded it on their cellphones. One video showed the red SUV slamming into a group of young dancers as a woman repeatedly screamed “Oh my God!”
“Today we experienced a horrible, senseless tragedy. I walked in the parade at the beginning,” Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said at a news conference. “I saw the happy children sitting on the curb. I saw happy parents behind their children. I can still see the smiling faces.”
Waukesha, a city of 72,000 people just 20 miles west of Milwaukee, was celebrating the holidays with a Christmas parade when disaster struck at about 5 p.m. local time.
Angelito Tenorio, a West Allis alderman, said he had just finished marching in the parade with his family and friends before he saw the car drive through the parade.
“We saw an SUV cross over, just put the pedal to the metal and just zooming full speed along the parade route,” Tenorio said. “And then we heard a loud bang, and just deafening cries and screams from people who are struck by the vehicle. And then we saw people running away or stopping crying, and there are people on the ground who looked like they’d been hit by the vehicle.”
Thompson said the investigation was ongoing and that a “suspect vehicle” was recovered. A person of interest was in custody, he said.
A police officer fired gunshots at the SUV in an attempt to stop it, Thompson said. No bystanders were injured by the gunfire. He said police don’t believe any shots were fired from the SUV.
Area hospitals were still treating victims Monday while questions remain about the exact number of injured or deceased.
Aurora Medical Center – Summit, a hospital in Waukesha County, confirmed it was treating 13 patients early Monday morning. Of those 13, three people are in “critical” condition, four are in “serious” condition and six are in “fair” condition, according to a statement released by the hospital, which is located about 15 miles away from the scene of the tragedy.
“We are praying for all those impacted, their families and our first responders,” the statement said.
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies is a group of older women who, according to their Facebook page, meet once a week to practice routines “for summer and winter parades.” The group published a post after the crash saying members and volunteers “were impacted and we are waiting for word on their conditions. Please keep the Grannies, all those injured, and all those who witnessed this horrible event in your thoughts and prayers.”
Corey Montiho, a Waukesha school district board member, said his daughter’s dance team was hit by the SUV. “They were pom-poms and shoes and spilled hot chocolate everywhere. I had to go from one crumpled body to the other to find my daughter,” he said.
He said his wife and two daughters were almost hit.
“My family is safe but many are not. I held one little girl’s head in my hand, she was seizing and she was bleeding out of her ears. I held her mother as she collapsed. Please pray.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Twitter that President Joe Biden was briefed on the incident. “Our team is in close touch with local officials to offer any support and assistance needed,” she tweeted. “Our hearts are with the families and the entire community.”
Bacon reported from Arlington, Va. Contributing: Celina Tebor, USA TODAY; Molly Beck and Devi Shastri, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Associated Press
Source: GANNETT Syndication Service