Waukesha Christmas parade: At least 18 children were hospitalized after an SUV barrels into the crowd
At least 18 children were hospitalized after Waukesha’s Christmas parade, said Children’s Wisconsin, a children’s hospital in nearby Milwaukee.
There is evidence that the driver was on the run from another incident as he entered the parade route, according to multiple law enforcement sources familiar with the findings of the preliminary investigation.
So far, there is no known link to international or domestic terrorism, nor does it appear to be related to the recent ruling in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the sources said.
How the disaster unfolded
Families, including children in prams, bowed in the chilly wind and lined the parade route on Main Street.
The livestream of the parade in the city showed that a marching band had just started playing “Jingle Bells” when a red SUV pulled into the parade from behind. Bystanders screamed in horror.
Another video captured by a parade goer showed a young girl in a pink coat and hat dancing in the street as the SUV sped past, missing her just three feet away.
Another witness, Nathan Bryce, recorded video of the SUV plowing through barricades.
On Monday morning, parade-goers’ belongings were still scattered across the scene as authorities tried to confirm what led to the disaster.
Police Chief Daniel P. Thompson said officers are working with the Waukesha County Medical Examiner’s Office to identify victims.
Thompson said “a person of interest is in custody,” but would not say if it was the driver of the SUV or if any arrests have been made.
“This is still a very fluid investigation,” the chief told reporters Sunday night. He said children were among the injured.
A Waukesha police officer opened fire to try to stop the driver, and no bystanders were hit by the officer’s gunfire, the chief said. Thompson added that he does not believe any shots were fired from the vehicle.
“The scene is now safe and secure,” Thompson said.
Victims include members of Milwaukee Dancing Grannies
Authorities have not released details about the five deaths, but the dancing grannies of Milwaukee said some members of the group were among the victims. all ages, they fill them with joy and happiness,” the dance group posted on Facebook.
“Those who died were extremely passionate grannies,” the group said.
“Our hearts are heavy at this very difficult time, as more information and updates become available it will be posted. Keep their family, friends, the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies and everyone alive forever in your thoughts and prayers.”
At least some of the injured were in critical condition
Aurora Medical Center-Summit, a hospital in Waukesha County, said it was treating 13 patients as of Sunday night: three in critical condition, four in serious condition and six in fair condition.
Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee — the only level I trauma center in southeastern Wisconsin — said it also treated patients from the parade incident, but did not give a specific number or conditions. Level I trauma centers typically care for the most critically ill patients.
The 18 children admitted to the Children’s Wisconsin hospital had injuries ranging from “face abrasions to broken bones to serious head injuries,” said Dr. Amy Drendel, medical director of the Children’s Wisconsin Emergency Department and Trauma Center.
The children’s ages range from 3 to 16, and those who are hospitalized include three sets of siblings, Drendel said.
‘He definitely hit two people at once and rolled over them’
A video obtained by CNN shows the moment the vehicle struck pedestrians. A red SUV is seen hitting a person in a marching band. Then the vehicle moves forward, hitting and running over others in the tire and crowd before driving off.
Angela O’Boyle, who lives in a fifth-floor apartment that faces the parade route, told CNN she watched the festivities from the balcony.
“The next thing I heard was screaming, and I turned my head and saw the car come and plow into the tire that was just past my balcony at the time,” she said.
“It immediately hit at least two people and rolled over them. And then continued up to People’s Park, which is at the end of the block — and then kept going, it didn’t stop.”
Boyle said she heard screams and people shouting their children’s names, adding “it wasn’t something I wanted to see… kind of panicked.”
Kaylee Staral, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel intern who witnessed the incident, said, “Probably about 20 to 30 minutes into the parade, a red SUV came running down the middle of the street — there was a lot of yelling — and We almost thought maybe it was Santa Claus, but it was a red SUV and it hit a lot of people.”
Staral went on to say, “there were several people on the ground.”
“Right in front of me in the little spot where I was sitting, there were probably four people downstairs, so there were a lot of people running to check on them,” Staral said. “I believe the four people in front of me were still breathing, but they were down, they weren’t moving.”
Schools closed as a community mourns
Flags must be flown at half-mast at “all buildings, land and military installations” statewide, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said Monday.
“Today I have ordered that the flags of the US and Wisconsin be flown at half-mast as we continue to pray for the Waukesha community and the children, loved ones and neighbors whose lives have been forever changed by an unimaginable tragedy last night,” the governor tweeted.
Roads in the area will remain closed for at least 24 hours, Thompson said. Businesses along the road where the disaster occurred must remain closed on Monday, city officials said.
The Waukesha school district said it has canceled classes on Monday and will determine whether classes resume on Tuesday.
“The district will have additional chaperones available in all buildings during the school day for all students who may need support,” school officials said in a statement.
The White House is in contact with state and local officials, according to a White House official, and President Joe Biden has been notified.
“The White House is closely monitoring the situation in Waukesha and our hearts go out to everyone affected by this horrific incident,” a White House official said. “We have reached out to state and local officials to provide support and assistance as needed.”
Shimon Prokupecz, Evan Perez, Claudia Dominguez, Justin Lear, Alaa Elassar, Natasha Chen, Andy Rose, Arlette Saenz and Conor Powell of CNN contributed to this report.