The victims were aged between 52 and 81 and three of them were affiliated with a dancing group for older women called the “Milwaukee Dancing Grannies”, Waukesha police chief Daniel Thompson said on Monday.
Virginia “Ginny” Sorenson, 79, LeAnna Owen, 71 and Tamara Durand, 52, were members of the dancing group, while 81-year-old Wilhelm Hospel, the fourth victim, was helping the group because his wife was a member.
The fifth victim, identified as 52-year-old Jane Kulich, was a bank employee who was walking along with the company’s parade float.
The Dancing Grannies, known for entertaining crowds with pompoms and dance routines, confirmed on social media that some of the victims were part of their group.
“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,” the group said in a Facebook post on Monday.
“Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies. Their eyes gleamed... joy of being a Grannie. They were the glue... held us together,” the group added.
Durand, the youngest of the Dancing Grannies, was performing with the group for the first time, her husband David said.
“I wasn’t able to get close to her body because they were blocking everything off. There were a lot of bodies and injured people, so it was not easy to see at first. So I had to identify her at the morgue,” he told The New York Post.
Prior to the tragedy, in her last post on Facebook, she shared her photos of herself in her parade attire, holding white pompoms. “Here we go! First parade! So excited,” she wrote.
Kulich’s daughter Taylor Smith said her mother was representing her employer Citizens Bank when she was killed. “She was an amazing mom and grandma. Everyone loved her,” Ms Smith told CNN.
At least 40 people, including children, suffered injuries after an SUV ploughed into the parade ramming into band members and cheerleaders marching in close formation.
Describing the “horrifying” incident, witnesses said the “calm” driver was “going from side to side, targeting people”.
Children’s Wisconsin, a paediatric hospital in Milwaukee, confirmed it treated 18 minor victims, ranging in age from three to 16 years old. Six of the injured child victims required surgery, while 10 remained in the intensive care unit as of midday Monday.
Local resident Angelito Tenorio said he had just finished marching in the parade when the SUV “put the pedal to the metal” and started zooming full speed along the parade route.
“Then we heard a loud bang, and just deafening cries and screams from people who are struck by the vehicle,” he told The Journal Sentinel.
The suspected driver, 39-year-old Darrell Brooks, is facing five counts of first-degree intentional homicide.
He was allegedly involved in a “domestic dispute” moments before he drove on the parade route. Court records showed he has an extensive rap sheet dating back to 1999.
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