Waukesha attack victims include three ‘dancing grannies’
Waukesha, Wis. —They were grandmothers and grandsons, members of a high school band, and husbands, who were descending on Main Street in a celebration that had kicked off the local holiday season for more than half a century.
After a year of trauma and struggle, members of the Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis., were marching for normalcy on Sunday when a maroon SUV roared at them, turning the crowd’s cheers into eerie screams.
At least five people were confirmed dead on Monday, with at least 48 injured, as officials probed the tragedy after a man fleeing a knife fight entered the parade route. Among those hospitalized were at least 18 children, including 10 in intensive care.
Three of those killed were members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a group of women whose fanfare routines have been a staple of local holiday parades since the 1980s: their choreographer, Virginia Sorenson, 79; Leanna Owen, 71, a dancer; and Tamara Durand, 52, a new member performing for the first time. The fourth was the husband of a dancer, Wilhelm Hospel, 81, and the fifth, Jan Kulich, 52, a civilian bank teller, with his company Float, was walking right behind the group.
“She was lively, energetic,” said 52-year-old David Durand of his wife, Tamara, the group’s youngest member.
“She was the kind of person who grabbed your attention as soon as you walked into the room,” he said. “She literally danced her way through the day.”
In a Facebook post, the group said it was “devastated”.
“Those who died were extremely emotional grannies,” the statement said. “Our group was doing what they loved, performing in front of a crowd in a parade, bringing smiles to the faces of all ages, filling them with joy and happiness.”
Video from Parade Street shows nine members of the troupe in their signature blue winter jacket with white fur hats and white fanfare, dancing to “Jingle Bell Rock”.
Ms Kulich’s childhood friend, 52-year-old Greg Bentz, said bank workers were distributing candy on their way to the parade when the SUV hit them. “She had a lot of friends,” he said, describing Ms Kulich as “clingy, happy and outgoing”.
“She was an angel,” said her niece, Desiree Kulich, 42. “She was always giving back to the community. She was a church-goer — just a really nice person.” Ms Kulich’s death devastated her husband and three children, the niece said.
At a news conference on Monday, Dr. Michael Gutzit, chief medical officer for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, said 18 children were brought to the hospital after the parade, all between the ages of 3 and 16. Medical director of the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit Dr. Michael Meyer said 10 of them are in the ICU and six are in critical condition.
“Injuries from Sunday night will go well beyond the physical and will take time to heal,” said Dr. Gutzit.
The victims included three siblings, said Dr Amy Drendell, medical director of the hospital’s Emergency Defense and Trauma Center. Their ailments range from facial abrasions to broken bones to severe head injuries.
Another hospital, Aurora Medical Center-Summit, said in a statement that it is treating 13 patients, of whom three are in critical condition. Frodart Hospital officials said it had found seven patients.
Waukesha’s school district canceled classes for several days because of the tragedy. Officials from the Extreme Dance Team, another group that marched, asked for thoughts, prayers and “privacy to process the tragic events.” GoFundMe accounts posted on behalf of the families of dance troupe members said that at least one child, the daughter of a single mother of five, had lost a kidney and suffered a broken pelvis and malfunctioning liver. Was lying. A photo that organizers said was taken shortly before the accident showed the girls performing in black outfits with silver and white knitted hats and white pomp.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee said parishioners and students from a local Catholic school were among the wounded.
Hundreds of people gathered in a nearby park to mourn the victims as it turned cold on Monday. Mayor Sean Reilly told the gathering, “Tonight is the first night to heal our community and we take one small step to lift those in need.” “Tonight I ask for your prayer.”
The tragedy described to attendees and spectators a blissful night out at Waukesha, a bedroom community about 20 miles west of Milwaukee. Last year’s parade was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and this year came on the heels of the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, an hour away in Kenosha, in a politically charged case that divided Wisconsin and the nation. and left raw. More than 60 entries, from the fire department to the Waukesha Old Car Club to Santa Claus, were about to march through downtown.
Eyewitnesses described chaos in those moments as a driver plowed through barricades and into parades; Officers later arrested a suspect, whom they identified as Darrell E. Brooks Jr., 39. Mickey Randa, 14, said he was marching with his high school football team when he saw a young girl hit by a car.
“The car passed by us, there was a lot of panic,” he said, adding that initially he did not understand what had happened. Mr. Randa said he then saw five or six bodies lying on the ground.
“I’m still in a bit of a shock,” he said.
Jason Kellner, 49, said he had recently seen his son, a drummer in the Waukesha South High School marching band, when he saw an SUV heading towards a crowd. After passing through an intersection, Mr. Kellner said, the car “started crushing people.”
He said that when he ran to find his son, he saw several victims on the ground and a bloody saxophone. But he found his son unwell on the side of the road.
“I have never felt a worse emotion,” said Mr. Kellner, “I wondered what I would get when I met my baby.”
Brandon Dupresh Contributed to reporting. Kirsten Noyes, Kitty Bennett And Susan C. Beacheo Contributed to research.
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