A vehicle drove through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Sunday afternoon, leaving at least five people dead and more than 40 injured, including children, authorities said.
Dozens of emergency officials responded after the incident around 4:40 p.m. local time. A livestream video of the event appears to show a red SUV speeding through the parade route, troubling those gathered on the street. A police vehicle is seen rushing through the crowd soon afterward before the attendees begin to disperse.
At least 11 adults and 12 children were transported to six area hospitals after the incident. Many more people took themselves to the hospital, authorities said. Officials did not provide any further details about the ages of those who died.
Officials from Children’s Wisconsin in Milwaukee said Monday that the hospital had received 18 children, including three sets of siblings, for treatment and has discharged two of them. Ten kids are being treated in the intensive care unit, with six in critical condition. Their injuries include facial abrasions, broken bones and serious head injuries.
Dan Thompson, the police chief in Waukesha, said authorities have identified one person of interest who is in custody, although he added that officers were still probing a “very fluid investigation.” He added that the scene was safe and there were no further threats to the public.
Investigators are looking into whether the driver was fleeing a crime, one law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Monday.
“Tonight was a traumatic situation for the city of Waukesha,” the city’s mayor, Shawn Reilly, said Sunday. “We don’t have all the details. We can’t provide details at this point.”
Those on the scene described a festive atmosphere that quickly turned tragic after the car careened through safety barricades set up along the city’s Main Street. More than 60 groups had gathered for this year’s event after the 2020 celebration was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we were walking back … we saw an SUV cross over, just put the pedal to the metal and just zooming full speed along the parade route,” Angelito Tenorio, an alderman for West Allis, Wisconsin, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “And then we heard a loud bang, and just deafening cries and screams from people who are struck by the vehicle.”
He said he saw people running from the scene crying, and people on the ground who appeared to have been hit by the car.
Local reporters said it appeared that multiple people were on the ground shortly after the incident. Thompson said an officer discharged his weapon at the suspect’s vehicle, but there was no more evidence so far of any other gunfire.
Many families were at the event with young children, as were groups affiliated with local schools including a high school marching band. The Milwaukee Archdiocese said one of its priests was injured, as were “multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic school children.”
Corey Montiho, a member of the Waukesha School Board, told the Journal Sentinel his daughter’s dance team was marching in the parade and that many members were hit by the SUV.
“There 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 told reporter Molly Beck. “My wife and two daughters were almost hit.”
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a self-described “group of grannies” that marches in about 25 parades a year, said members were participating in Sunday’s event and impacted by the vehicle, but didn’t have any more information.
Kaylee Staral, an intern at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who was at the parade, told CNN that the SUV came “running down the middle of the street” and hit “a lot of people.”
“After the SUV left, there were multiple people on the ground, and the police came through a little later saying at least 30 on the ground,” Staral said, noting that the car was going “very fast.”
The Waukesha Christmas Parade, held about 17 miles west of downtown Milwaukee, is an annual event that has been held for more than 50 years.
Photos posted on the city’s Instagram account showed many people sitting on the curb just off the parade route.
The theme this year was “comfort and joy.”
Gov. Tony Evers (D) called the incident a “senseless act” and said his office was awaiting more information.
Wisconsin has been on edge following the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who on Friday was found not guilty after killing two people during a Black Lives Matter demonstration last summer. Protests following the verdict have been largely peaceful in Kenosha, where the trial was held.