Several people were killed when an SUV crashed during a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis., on Sunday, according to the local police chief.
Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson said there were “few” deaths, but did not specify how many, age or names police are currently working to reach families.
“The vehicle hit over 20 persons. Some of the individuals were children and there have been some deaths as a result of this incident,” Thompson said.
Waukesha Fire Department Chief Steven Howard said his staff transported 11 adults and 12 children to six regional hospitals, but it is unknown how many others were transported.
The Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin said it had received 15 patients from the parade and had not reported any deaths as of 8 p.m.
Thompson said the suspect vehicle has been traced and the person of interest is in custody, and the investigation remains “fluid.” He said he did not know whether the incident was related to terrorism or not.
According to the police, the shelter order has now been lifted.
“The scene is now safe and secure,” Thompson said. Waukesha is approximately 31 km west of Milwaukee.
Thompson said the incident occurred at 4:39 p.m. when a red SUV collided with barricades blocking the parade down the city’s main street.
As the vehicle passed through the crowd, witnesses captured the act on videos posted to social media, showing a marching band with dozens of players and a dance troupe of young girls being hit from behind.
In the video, an officer was also seen firing at the vehicle in an attempt to stop it when it hit a barricade. Police did not say whether the driver was hurt, but said no one was injured by the discharge.
“Today we experienced a terrible, senseless tragedy,” said Waukesha Mayor Sean Reilly.
They marched in the parade and remembered the faces of the children with a smile.
“I was deeply saddened to learn that so many people in our community went to the parade but were still struggling with injury and heartache,” he said.
“My heart aches for all those affected by this senseless act.”
Waukesha School District board member Corey Montiho told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that her daughter’s dance team was hit by an SUV.
“There were pom-poms and shoes and hot chocolate scattered everywhere. I had to go from one mutilated body to another to find my daughter,” he said. “My wife and two daughters were almost killed. Please pray for everyone. Please pray.”
An entry in the parade, the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, posted on Facebook that members of the group were “impressed”.
“We are looking forward to work on their terms,” the post read.
Chris Germain, co-owner of the Aspire Dance Center studio, said he had about 70 girls in the parade, aged between two and 18.
He said he was driving to the head of their entrance when he saw the SUV “blazing right in front of us” and then an officer was walking.
“There were small children lying on the street, police officers and EMTs doing CPR on several members of the parade,” he said.
West Allis alderman Angelito Tenorio, running for Wisconsin state treasurer, said he was watching the parade with his family when he saw an SUV speeding into the area.
“Then we heard a loud bang,” Tenorio said. “And after that, we just heard screams and screams from the crowd, from the people in the parade. And people started crying, running away with tears in their eyes.
Tenorio said he saw about 10 people, both children and adults, on the ground.
“It just happened so quickly,” he said. “It was quite frightening.”
Another witness estimated that the SUV was going at about 64 km/h when it hit a crowd of people, with at least one going over the hood, according to ABC affiliate, WISN-TV. .
For the past 59 years, the parade has been held every Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Wisconsin’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General Josh Kaul, called the incidents “sickening” in a tweet.
“I have full faith that those responsible will be brought to justice,” he said.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers tweeted Sunday that he and his wife are “praying for Waukesha tonight and all the children, families and community members affected by this senseless act.”
“I am grateful to the first responders and people who acted quickly to help, and we are in contact with local partners as we await more information.”
more to come
— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press