By Eric Beech, Alexandra Ulmer and Cheney Orr WAUKESHA, Wis. (Reuters) – A speeding SUV plowed into dozens of people, including children, during a Christmas parade in a small Wisconsin city on Sunday, leaving a scene of chaos and carnage in its wake, with at least five people killed and about 40 injured. Police Chief […]
Five dead, dozens injured after SUV plows into Wisconsin Christmas parade
By Eric Beech, Alexandra Ulmer and Cheney Orr
WAUKESHA, Wis. (Reuters) – A speeding SUV plowed into dozens of people, including children, during a Christmas parade in a small Wisconsin city on Sunday, leaving a scene of chaos and carnage in its wake, with at least five people killed and about 40 injured.
Police Chief Dan Thompson told reporters that one person was in custody and a sport utility vehicle had been recovered after the incident in Waukesha, about 20 miles (32 km) west of Milwaukee. The number of dead and injured could change, authorities said.
The suspect appeared to be fleeing another incident when the vehicle sped through the parade route, CNN reported on Monday, citing law enforcement sources. Although the investigation was in its early stages, authorities have found no connection to terrorism, the sources told CNN.
The incident also appeared to be unrelated to Friday’s not-guilty verdict in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who was charged with the fatal shooting of two men and the wounding of a third during racial justice protests in nearby Kenosha, Wisconsin, CNN reported.
A video posted online showed a red sport utility vehicle driving at speed alongside and into the parade, appearing to run over more than a dozen people before crowds ran from sidewalks to offer assistance.
An officer fired shots at the vehicle in an attempt to stop the carnage, Thompson said. Another video on social media appeared to show police firing on the vehicle as it crashed through street barriers. Police did not believe shots had been fired from the vehicle, Thompson added, contrary to earlier reports.
Jodi Singsime, a 42-year-old nurse, took shelter in a store with members of her family before going out to help the injured.
“I heard and saw the people being hit, but what you could do more than seeing is hearing, and just that sound was insane,” she said.
She choked up as she described coming across a small boy in the road:
“I felt his neck for a pulse, and he had one, but his eyes were barely open and his face – all I can remember is his sweet little innocent face was purple. He wasn’t really with us.”
Another family had planned to march in the parade with their Catholic church, but Belen Santamaria, a 39-year-old factory worker, woke up on Sunday with a backache, so the family watched the procession from the sidewalk instead.
“The SUV came by at full speed,” she said. “Then I started to hear people screaming.”
She hid in a restaurant with her 3-year-old daughter while her husband, 39-year-old delivery worker Jesus Ochoa, ran to try to help injured people. He said he heard through other members of their church that roughly 10 members of the congregation, both adults and children, were injured.
“I was going to be there, walking,” Santamaria said. “The SUV would have hit us too.”
Another woman told Milwaukee’s Fox6 TV station that the SUV had hit a dance team of girls between 9 and 15 years old. Video on social media showed small groups surrounding injured girls with white pompoms scattered around.
Among the victims were members of a group of “Dancing Grannies,” according to a statement posted on Facebook on Monday.
“Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies. Their eyes gleamed…..(with the) joy of being a Grannie. They were the glue….(that) held us together,” read the statement posted on the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies Facebook page. “Our hearts are heavy at this most difficult time, as more information and updates become available it will be posted.”
The local CBS affiliate later showed a picture on Twitter of what appeared to be the red SUV involved with its hood crumpled and front fender hanging off, parked in a driveway.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the “tragic situation” and federal officials were offering assistance.
“Our hearts are with the families and the entire community,” she said in a post on Twitter on Monday.
Photos and videos of Waukesha circulating on Twitter showed police cars and ambulances crowding a street decked out with Christmas lights in the aftermath of the incident, which occurred shortly after 4:30 p.m. (2230 GMT). People bundled up against the cold huddled on sidewalks as dusk fell.
The Children’s Wisconsin hospital said it had received 15 patients as of 8 p.m., with no reported fatalities at that time.
Schools will remain closed on Monday and additional counselors will be available for students, the district superintendent of schools said.
In 2015, four people were killed and 46 injured in Stillwater, Oklahoma, when a woman drove into a crowd watching the homecoming parade for a football team.
(Reporting by Eric Beech in Washington, Alexandra Ulmer in San Francisco and Cheney Orr in Waukesha, Wisconsin; Additional reporting by Katharine Jackson, David Morgan and Phil Stewart in Washington; and Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru; Writing by Lincoln Feast, Kevin Liffey and Maria Caspani; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)