A BELOVED group of performers known as the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies has confirmed that some of its members were killed in the chaos at the Waukesha Christmas Parade on Sunday.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the group wrote that it was "devastated" to confirm that some of its members were among the five killed by a speeding SUV that carved through the parade on Main Street at 4.30pm.
A number of the group's members were also injured. It's currently unclear how many died and how many were hurt.
In its post, the troupe wrote: "The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies are devasted by this terrible tragedy with of loss of life and injuries in the Waukesha Christmas parade.
"Our group was doing what they loved, performing in front of crowds in a parade putting smiles on faces of all ages, filling them with joy and happiness.
"While performing the grannies enjoyed hearing the crowd's cheers and applause which certainly brought smiles to their faces and warmed their hearts."
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The group added that the members killed were "extremely passionate Grannies" and were "the glue" that held them all together.
"Our hearts are heavy at this most difficult time, as more information and updates become available it will be posted," the statement continued.
"Please keep them their families, friends, the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies and everyone whose lives have forever changed in your thoughts and prayers."
BELOVED LOCAL GROUP
The only requirement for joining the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies is to be a grandmother. Members typically range in age from their early 50s to mid-70s.
Every year the award-winning group performs in more than 20 parades across the state, dancing through streets and shaking their pompoms as they raise money for charity.
David Simmons, an Episcopal Priest in Waukesha at St. Matthias Episcopal Church, told The Washington Post that the women are a "staple" at such events.
"It's pretty adorable, honestly, it's elderly women who are really dancing hard, and it's something that people look forward to in the parade," he said.
According to the group's official website, they gather weekly to practice choreographed routines and between them, they have approximately 100 grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren.
In a post just hours before Sunday's deadly mayhem, the group had excitedly written on Facebook: "Waukesha here we come!!!"
Tributes and messages of condolence have been flooding in for the grannies online since confirming the deaths of its members.
"This breaks my heart and am truly saddened to hear this devastating news. These grannies were always the highlight of our parades. Their lives should have never been taken away so tragically," one person wrote.
"My prayers to all the families and friends. NO words can describe this life-changing moment for them. May God Bless you all."
"Just devastating. We were looking forward to seeing you in Whitefish Bay this weekend…you truly are a highlight of every parade, you make everyone smile and you remind us to never stop doing what you love. I'm so so sorry for your losses," added a second.
PRIEST AND KIDS HURT
The Catholic Community of Waukesha confirmed on Facebook that several parishioners were injured and are hospitalized.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee of Milwaukee said one of those injured was a Catholic priest "as well as multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic school children."
Some of the children hit are believed to have been members of the Waukesha South High School Black Shirt Band.
In a Facebook post, the Waukesha Xtreme Dance team thanked those who checked on the safety of team members and their families.
"Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers," the group said, adding it would provide "an update when we know more."
A total of five people have been confirmed dead and more than 40 injured, though police have warned that the number of fatalities may yet still rise.
Aurora Medical Center-Summit, a hospital in Waukesha County, told CNN Sunday night it is treating 13 patients. Three were listed in critical condition, four in serious condition, and six in fair condition.
"We are deeply saddened by today's senseless tragedy and our hearts are with the Waukesha community," a statement from the hospital said.
Children's Wisconsin, a pediatric hospital in Milwaukee, said 18 children, from ages 3-16 years old, were admitted into the facility.
According to Children's Wisconsin, the injuries to the children include facial abrasions, broken bones and severe head injuries.
Six minors were sent to the operating room, while two others were scheduled to undergo surgeries today.
In a virtual press conference on Monday, doctors said some patients are conscious while others are unconscious.
Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, a Level 1 trauma center, said it was also treating patients but declined to specify how many or speak to the severity of the injuries suffered.
Yesterday's horrific incident unfolded just after 4.30pm when, around 30 minutes into the parade, a red Ford Escape smashed through a series of barriers before carving through a procession of performers along Main Street.
In video posted tIt'scial media, parents were heard crying out for their children as fast-acting Samaritans raced to perform CPR on the injured.
It's unclear at this time whether the incident was an act of terrorism, Police Chief Daniel P. Thompson said. Law enforcement sources suggested to CNN that the suspect was fleeing another incident when he barreled into the parade route.
Thompson confirmed that a "person of interest" was in custody but refused to specify whether it was the driver of the red Ford and whether any arrests had been made. A second person was in the SUV, ABC reported.
The person of interest has been identified in a report by NBC as Darrell Edward Brooks, 39, a rapper who goes by the name MathBoi Fly.
According to WHNT, at least six children hurt in the Wisconsin parade were in critical condition, and three others were in serious condition.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers released a statement via Twitter, saying: "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 respthere'sand folks who acted quickly to help, and we are in contact with local partners as we await more information."
Police say there's no active threat to the area at this time.
On Monday morning, Evers ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff across the state to honor those who were killed and injured and those "whose lives were forever changed by an unthinkable tragedy."
Roads in the area will remain closed for at least 24 hours. Businesses along Main Street should also remain closed on Monday, city officials said.
Classes in the School District of Waukesha were canceled on Monday, with a decision to be made on whether schools will reopen tomorrow.
Officials with the district confirmed that counselors would be available during the school day for any students who made be in need of support.
The White House has also been in contact with local and state officials about the incident. President Joe Biden has been briefed on the matter, official spokesperson ls said.
"The White House is closely monitoring the situation in Waukesha and our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by this terrible incident," a White House official said.
"We have reached out to state and local officials to offer any support and assistance as needed."
A vigil has been scheduled for 5pm at Cutler Park near downtown Waukesha.
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