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Five dead after SUV driven into Wisconsin Christmas parade

A least five people have been killed and 40 injured after an SUV was driven into a Christmas parades in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Dance groups and high school bands and politicians were marching along Main Street in the Milwaukee suburb’s Christmas parade, which was returning from a pandemic hiatus, when the incident occurred.

Shortly before 4.40pm the driver of a red SUV stormed past barricades and drove through the crowd, striking dozens of people. At least five people were killed and 40 people were injured, and the numbers could change, city authorities said in a statement late on Sunday. Hospitals reported treating dozens of patients, including many children.

“Today our community faced horror and tragedy in what should have been a community celebration,” said mayor Shawn Reilly. “I’m deeply saddened to know that so many in our community went to a parade but ended up dealing with injury and heartache.”

Chief Daniel Thompson of the Waukesha Police Department said a person of interest was in custody and that there was no further threat. Eyewitnesses described the driver as male, but that was not confirmed by police. Mr Thompson said shots were fired by the police at the driver.

Hospitals

Children’s Wisconsin hospital said it had admitted 15 people on Sunday. Details about their conditions were not immediately available. Another hospital, Aurora Medical Center-Summit, said in a statement that it was treating 13 patients, including three in critical condition. Officials at Froedtert Hospital said they also had received patients but did not specify how many.

This was the 58th Christmas parade for Waukesha, an annual event that was cancelled last year because of the pandemic. The theme of this year’s event was simply “Comfort and Joy.” Jason Kellner (49) said that he had just watched his son, a drum player in the Waukesha South High School marching band, pass by, when he first saw a red Ford Escape heading toward the crowd. After passing through an intersection, Mr Kellner said, the car “started mowing people down”.

“I’ve never felt a worse feeling; wondering what I’m going to find when I get to my kid,” Mr Kellner said of the moment he ran toward his son, whom he found standing unharmed by the side of the road. Mr Kellner said he pulled a bloody saxophone off the street and saw several people, apparently injured, on the ground. “Right now, I’m just angry,” Mr Kellner said. “It seems everywhere we turn, it’s just another violent day in the US.”

Tyler Kotlarek (28) was watching the parade with family members when they heard screams. “It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” Mr Kotlarek said the driver appeared to intentionally steer toward people. That account had not been confirmed by police. “He was going from side to side, targeting people,” Mr Kotlarek said. “The car bombed through. He was flying through there going intentionally from left to right.”

Conditions

The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, which were among the parade entrants, said on Facebook that members and volunteers had been impacted “and we are waiting for word on their conditions”.

Officials with the Xtreme Dance team, another group that marched, asked for thoughts, prayers and “privacy to process the tragic events.” The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee said a priest, as well as parishioners and students at a local Catholic school, were among the injured.

Tom Hickey (25) was walking near a friend’s float at the back of the parade when he heard honking behind him. A man wearing a sweatshirt and gray hat who was driving the red Ford Escape was trying to make his way through the crowd, he said. Mr Hickey said he thought the driver was lost.

Then, the driver took a right turn onto the main parade route, gunned the engine and moved through the parade route at what appeared to be top speed, he said. “When he made that right turn, that’s when he turned really dangerous,” Mr Hickey said. – This article originally appeared in The New York Times

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