The horror was recorded by the city’s livestream and onlookers’ mobile phones. One video shows the moment the SUV broke by the barricades and includes the sound of what seemingly were several gunshots.
Another video shows a young child dancing in the street as the SUV speeds by, just a few metres from her, before it hurtles into parade participants a few hundred metres ahead. One video, of dancers with pompoms, ends with a group of people tending to a girl on the ground.
“There were pompoms and shoes and spilled hot chocolate everywhere. I had to go from one crumpled body to the other to find my daughter,” Corey Montiho, a Waukesha school district board member, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “My wife and two daughters were almost hit. Please pray for everybody. Please pray.”
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies posted on its Facebook page that some of its members were among the dead. The organisation describes itself as a “group of grannies that meet once a week to practice routines for summer and winter parades.”
A Roman Catholic priest, parishioners and Waukesha Catholic schoolchildren were among those injured, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee said.
Chris Germain, co-owner of the Aspire Dance Centre studio, had about 70 people in the parade, including children as young as 2 being pulled in wagons and participants up to 18 years old.
Germain, whose 3-year-old daughter was in the parade, said he was driving at the head of their entry when he saw a maroon SUV that “just blazed right past us”. A police officer ran past in chase. Germain said he jumped out of his own SUV and gathered the girls who were with him to safety.
Then he walked forward to see the damage.
“There were small children laying all over the road. There were police officers and EMTs doing CPR on multiple members of the parade,” he said.
Angelito Tenorio, a West Allis alderman who is running for Wisconsin state treasurer, said he was watching the parade with his family when they saw the SUV come speeding into the area.
“Then we heard a loud bang,” Tenorio said. “And after that, we just heard deafening cries and screams from the crowd, from the people at the parade. And people started rushing, running away with tears in their eyes, crying.”
The Waukesha school district cancelled classes on Monday and said additional counsellors would be on hand for students and staff. The parade’s list of participants included cheer, dance and band entries associated with district schools.
Governor Tony Evers said he and his wife were “praying for Waukesha tonight and all the kids, families, and community members affected by this senseless act”.
The parade, held each year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, is sponsored by the city’s Chamber of Commerce. This year’s event, the 59th, had the theme of “comfort and joy”.
Waukesha is a western suburb of Milwaukee, and about 90 kilometres north of Kenosha, where Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on Friday of charges stemming from the fatal shooting of two men and the wounding of a third during unrest in that city in August 2020.
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