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5 killed, more than 40 injured after SUV speeds through Waukesha holiday parade

Incident took place Sunday afternoon at Christmas parade

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Police tape cordons off a street in Waukesha, Wis., after a vehicle plowed into a Christmas parade hitting more than 20 people.
Police tape cordons off a street in Waukesha after a vehicle plowed into a Christmas parade hitting more than 20 people Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Jeffrey Phelps/AP

An SUV plowed through the Waukesha Christmas Parade Sunday afternoon, leaving at least five people dead and injuring more than 40 people.

The incident occurred at about 4:39 p.m. in downtown Waukesha. A joyous scene of marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats and carrying pompoms turned deadly in an instant, as an SUV sped through a barricade and slammed into a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee as spectators watched in horror. Police said adults and children were hit in the horrifying scene

Waukesha city officials released an updated number of fatalities and those who were injured shortly before midnight.

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Fire Chief Steven Howard said his agency had a truck in the parade and it immediately responded when the emergency call came Sunday. The fire department and its partners transported 11 adults and 12 children to six different hospitals, he said.

Police investigate after SUV crashes into people at Waukesha Christmas Parade on Sunday.
Police investigate after SUV crashes into people at Waukesha Christmas Parade on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Police investigate after SUV crashes into people at Waukesha Christmas Parade on Sunday.
Police investigate after SUV crashes into people at Waukesha Christmas Parade on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“We do not have any specifics on the injuries at this time,” he said Sunday just after 8 p.m.

Police Chief Dan Thompson said Sunday night that police, ambulances and family members took injured people to the hospital.

Officials with Children’s Wisconsin Hospital issued a news release Sunday night saying it’s received 15 patients from the incident with no reported fatalities as of 8 p.m.

Thompson said his department won’t be releasing any information on fatalities until authorities had the opportunity to notify families of the deceased.

Sandra Peterson, communication director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, issued a news release Sunday night that identified some of the victims as a Catholic priest, multiple diocese parishioners and Waukesha Catholic school children.

“Our prayers are with the people who have been injured and killed during the tragic incident in Waukesha,” she wrote. “Please join us in prayer for all those involved, their families, and those who are traumatized from witnessing the horrible scene.”

Police canvass the streets in downtown Waukesha, Wis., after a vehicle plowed into a Christmas parade hitting more than 20 people Sunday.
Police canvass the streets in downtown Waukesha after a vehicle plowed into a Christmas parade hitting more than 20 people Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Jeffrey Phelps/AP
Police canvass the streets in downtown Waukesha, Wis., after a vehicle plowed into a Christmas parade hitting more than 20 people
Police canvass the streets in downtown Waukesha after a vehicle plowed into a Christmas parade hitting more than 20 people Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Jeffrey Phelps/AP

The incident was captured by the city’s livestream and the cell phones of onlookers. One video shows a woman screaming, “Oh my God!” repeatedly after a group of girls wearing Santa hats and dancing with white pompoms is struck. Another shows the SUV plowing into members of a marching band, their music replaced with terrified screams.

A father talked of going “from one crumpled body to the other” in search of his daughter. Members of a “Dancing Grannies” club were among those hit.

Corey Montiho, a School District of Waukesha board member, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his daughter’s dance team was hit.

“There were pompoms and shoes and spilled hot chocolate everywhere,” he said. “I had to go from one crumpled body to the other to find my daughter. My wife and two daughters were almost hit. Please pray for everybody. Please pray. My family is safe but many are not.”

A video shared on social media appears to show a red SUV speeding past members of a marching band. The vehicle crossed a barricade and headed west on Main Street, according to Thompson.

Thompson also said his officers recovered a vehicle and there’s a person of interest in custody. The investigation is ongoing, and it’s unknown whether it’s connected to terrorism, Thompson said.

“To the Waukesha community, the scene is now safe and secure,” Thompson said.

Roads near the scene were closed Sunday night. Anyone who lives in the area and needs to get home should park in Lot No. 12 and speak to an officer at the Clock Tower, officials said.

There is a family reunification site at Waukesha South High School and counseling services are available there as well. Authorities said anyone who lives outside the area but is looking for relatives should call 262-548-7122.

Initially, there were reports of gunfire on social media. An officer did “discharge his weapon” trying to stop the vehicle, Thompson said. Officials believe no other shots were fired, and no injuries were attributed to gunfire.

“Tonight was a traumatic situation for the city of Waukesha,” Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said during a short press briefing.

The city plans to hold a news conference at 1 p.m. Monday

The Waukesha School District has canceled Monday’s classes for 4K through 12th grade. Officials said they’ll announce Monday whether classes will resume Tuesday. They said they will have extra counselors available when school resumes. The district is closed for the Thanksgiving holiday Wednesday through Friday.

City officials said any items for a temporary memorial be placed at Veterans Park.

Public officials offer support after incident

Messages of support have poured in from across the state and beyond.

“The White House is closely monitoring the situation in Waukesha and our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by this terrible incident. We have reached out to state and local officials to offer any support and assistance as needed,” a White House official told ABC News.

Gov. Tony Evers offered his prayers to the victims and their loved ones and his gratitude to emergency workers and others in a tweet Sunday evening.

“Kathy and I are praying for Waukesha tonight and all the kids, families, and community members affected by this senseless act. I’m grateful for the first responders and folks who acted quickly to help, and we are in contact with local partners as we await more information,” he tweeted.

Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow also expressed his sorrow in a tweet posted Sunday evening.

Editor’s note: Alyssa Allemand and David Hyland contributed to this report. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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