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Wisconsin holiday parade

Debris litters the street at a crime scene on November 21, 2021 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. According to reports, an SUV drove through pedestrians at a holiday parade, killing at least five and injuring more than 40. (Photo by Jim Vondruska/Getty Images)

At Least 5 Dead, 40 Injured After SUV Slams Through 'Comfort and Joy' Christmas Parade in Wisconsin

Annual celebration turns into bloody chaos after driver rams into performers and onlookers in the town of Waukesha.

Jon Queally

A Christmas holiday parade themed 'comfort and joy' in the town of Waukesha, Wisconsin turned deadly Sunday evening after a driver plowed into participants and observers, killing at least five people and injuring more than 40.

According to the Greater Milwaukee Today, a local paper:

Multiple people were struck by a red SUV in downtown Waukesha partway through the Waukesha Christmas Parade this evening around 4:40 p.m. 

Before the parade began, the vehicle was seen swerving around parade participants on Whiterock Avenue, including The Freeman van. Police vehicles with sirens and lights activated followed soon after, and then a fire truck. 

The crowd that had gathered to watch the parade began dispersing suddenly and with urgency. People were heard calling for family members in a panicked state—a man was shouting a girl's name from the historic courthouse building's steps.

As of this writing, police have not identified by name a "person of interest" in custody believed to be the driver of the red SUV and officials have said the death and injury count could both rise. Police gave no details about the individual and Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson, who briefed reporters, refused to speculate about any possible motives.

"At this time, we can confirm that 5 people are deceased and over 40 are injured," said a statement from the City of Waukesha on Sunday night. "However, these numbers may change as we collect additional information."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the tragic incident "occurred during one of the city's biggest and most cherished annual events. A joyous crowd lined both sides of the road, people bundled against the cold."

Videos circulating on social media offered various angles of the incident as marchers in the parade were overtaken by the speeding vehicle and onlookers reacted with horror as people in the street—including elderly performers and children—were struck.

According to the Associated Press, the parade held annually "on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, is sponsored by the city's Chamber of Commerce. This year's, the 59th, had the theme of 'comfort and joy.'"

Witnesses expressed grief and called for prayers for those killed and injured as well as their families.

"There were pom-poms and shoes and spilled hot chocolate everywhere," Corey Montiho, a School District of Waukesha board member, who saw the events unfold as his daughter's dance troupe performed, told the Sentinel. "I had to go from one crumpled body to the other to find my daughter. My wife and two daughters were almost hit. Please pray for everybody. Please pray. My family is safe but many are not. I held one little girl's head in my hand, she was seizing and she was bleeding out of her ears. I held her mother as she collapsed. Please pray.”

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