At least five people were killed and more than 40 injured when a pickup truck rammed into a Christmas parade Sunday afternoon in Waukesha , Wisconsin, city officials said.
“These numbers may change as we collect additional information. Many people have reached out to area hospitals on their own,” the city of Waukesha said in a Twitter post early Monday.
Witnesses described the horror of seeing people run over and sprawled on the ground after a red pickup truck passed through a series of barricades and hurtled onto the crowded parade route on Main Street around 4:39 p.m. local time.
Police Chief Daniel P. Thompson said officers are working with the Waukesha County Medical Examiner’s Office to identify the victims.
Thompson says there is “a person of interest in custody,” but did not say whether he was the driver of the truck or whether any arrests have been made.
“This is still a very fluid investigation,” the chief told reporters Sunday night.
There are children among the injured, he said.
A Waukesha police officer detonated his gun in an attempt to stop the driver and his shots missed any bystanders, the chief said. Thompson added that he does not believe shots were fired from the vehicle.
It is not known at this time if Sunday’s incident was an act of terrorism, Thompson said. “The scene is now secured and protected,” he added.
Aurora Medical Center-Summit, a hospital in Waukesha County, told Sunday night that it is treating 13 patients: three in critical condition, four in critical condition and six in fair condition. “We are deeply saddened by today’s senseless tragedy and our hearts go out to the Waukesha community,” said a statement from the hospital.
Children’s Wisconsin, a pediatric hospital in Milwaukee, said it was treating 15 patients who were injured and that no deaths had been reported as of Sunday night. Waukesha is located about 30 miles west of downtown Milwaukee.
Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, the only Level I trauma center in southeastern Wisconsin, confirmed that it is also treating patients, but did not provide a specific number or their conditions. Level I trauma centers tend to see the most seriously ill patients.
Witnesses describe a joyous night that ended in tragedy
A video obtained by shows the moment the vehicle struck pedestrians. A red van is seen impacting an individual participating in a marching band, then the vehicle continues forward, striking and running over others in the band and the crowd before pulling away.
Angela O’Boyle, who lives in a fifth-floor apartment that overlooks the parade route, told she was on the balcony watching when “the next thing I heard was screaming, I turned my head and saw the car stop. I was approaching the band that had just passed by my balcony at that point.
“He hit at least two people right away and rolled over them. And then he continued down the road to People’s Park, which is at the end of the block, and then he just kept going, he didn’t stop.”
Boyle said she heard screams and people yelling their children’s names, adding “it wasn’t something I wanted to see … I was kind of scared.”
Kaylee Staral, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel intern who witnessed the incident, told Pamela Brown that “probably around 20 to 30 minutes after the parade, a red van came speeding up in the middle of the street, there was a lot of screaming, and we almost thought maybe it was Santa, but it was a red truck and it hit a lot of people. “
Staral went on to say “there were a lot of people on the ground.”
Describing the wounded, Staral said: “Right in front of me in the little place where I was sitting, probably four people were lying down, so there were a lot of people running to go check them. I think the four people in front of me still they were breathing but they were lying down, they were not moving. “
Schools close in Waukesha, a mourning community
Roads in the area will be closed for at least 24 hours, Thompson said. The street where the incident occurred should remain closed Monday, city officials said.
Waukesha police sent an alert to cellphones in the area after the incident, asking for them to take shelter immediately. The alert is no longer in effect, Thompson said.
The Waukesha school district canceled classes on Monday, according to the school district, and will determine if they will resume on Tuesday.
“The district will have additional counselors available during the school day in all buildings for all students who may need support services,” school officials said in a statement.
Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow said that “I had just participated in the parade with my wife when I noticed the police sirens.” Farrow asked for prayers for the community and said he has contacted Mayor Shawn Reilly and Governor Tony Evers.
The Governor said on Twitter: “Kathy and I are praying for Waukesha tonight and for all the children, families and community members affected by this senseless act. I am thankful for the first responders and individuals who acted quickly to help, and we are in contact with local partners while we wait for more information. “
Waukesha councilor Don Paul Browne told that he had marched in front of the parade and was already outside before the incident, saying “this is so sad and so foolish.”
The White House is in contact with state and local officials, according to one official, and President Joe Biden was informed.
“The White House is closely monitoring the situation in Waukesha and our hearts go out to all who have been affected by this terrible incident,” said a White House official. “We have reached out to state and local officials to offer the necessary support and assistance.”
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