Nov. 22 (UPI) — Five people were killed and more than 40 others were injured after a car plowed into the 58th annual Waukesha Christmas Parade in southern Wisconsin on Sunday, officials said.
“The scene is still fluid, and the investigation is ongoing,” it said. “The community mourns the loss of our community members and those injured.”
Authorities had said earlier during an evening press conference that 11 adults and 12 minors were transferred by police, family and the fire department to six area hospitals while information about the deceased was being withheld until next of kin was notified after a red SUV through the parade route at around 4:40 p.m.
“A parade is a celebration for our community,” Mayor Shawn Reilly told reporters. “Today, our community faced horror and tragedy in what should have been a community celebration.”
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee confirmed in a statement that a priest, multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic school children were among the injured.
Children’s Wisconsin said that as of 8 p.m., it had received 15 patients from the parade, with no reported fatalities. The Aurora Medical Center — Summit said it was treating 13 patients, three of whom were in critical condition, four in serious condition and six considered fair.
Police Chief Dan Thompson said at the media briefing that a person of interest was in custody and that the vehicle had been recovered.
“It is unknown at this time whether the incident has any nexus with terrorism,” he said, adding the scene is safe and has been secured.
A police officer also discharged his weapon at the fleeing vehicle in an effort to bring it to a halt, he said, adding that no bystanders were injured as a result.
The Department of Justice is assisting with the response, Attorney General Josh Kaul announced in a statement.
“What took place in Waukesha today is sickening, and I have every confidence that those responsible will be brought to justice,” he said.
The parade began at 4 p.m. and was scheduled to end at 5 p.m.
Angelito Tenorio, a West Allis alderman who is running for Wisconsin state treasurer, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he saw the speeding vehicle along the parade route.
“Then we heard a loud bang, and just deafening cries and screams from people who are struck by the vehicle. And then, and then we saw people running away or stopping, crying, and there, there are people on the ground who looked like they’d been hit by the vehicle.”
He added, “It just all happened so fast.”
A live feed of the parade operated by the City of Waukesha shows a red SUV breaking through barriers and speeding into the roadway of the parade.
A witness told WISN-TV a driver in an SUV was “barreling down the street” into people who were marching in the parade.
The parade area was evacuated and a shelter in place order, which has since been rescinded, was issued.
Waukesha is celebrating its 125th year with events throughout the 2021 calendar.
The Waukesha Police Department posted on its Facebook page: “Please avoid the downtown area for the time being.”
A family reunification location was at the Waukesha Command Post.
The School District of Waukesha announced via its website that classes for Monday have been canceled and additional counselors will be made available at all buildings for students and staff who need support.
Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, who represents the Waukesha community, tweeted that he is monitoring the situation and that those searching for family should go to the Waukesha Metro Center.
“I’m praying for the safety of all those impacted by the senseless tragedy in Waukesha this evening,” he said.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers posted on Twitter: “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.”
Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, who had participated in the parade, said he has been in contact with the mayor and offered any resources the county could provide.
“This is an unspeakable tragedy, affecting us all as we work to overcome an extremely challenging two years and resume our cherished holiday tradition,” he said in a statement. “Keep the families affected in your thoughts as we work to offer whatever support we can.”