Waukesha Christmas parade victims identified: Three Dancing Grannies among five killed

At least 48 people were injured and five were killed when Darrell Brooks drove his SUV through a barricade and into parade attendees on Sunday in Waukesha, Wisconsin (Pictures: Facebook/Supplied)

The five people who were killed Sunday when a man drove his SUV through a crowd during the annual Waukesha Christmas parade in Wisconsin have been identified.

At least 48 people were injured when Darrell Brooks Jr, 39, drove his SUV through a barricade and into parade attendees, killing five people between the ages of 52 and 81. At least 18 of those hospitalized were children, and 10 were in intensive care. Authorities continue to investigate why the man, who was fleeing from a knife fight, plowed through the parade route.

Three of those killed were members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a local staple at holiday parades for over four decades. The group lost Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; and Tamara Durand, 52, who was performing as a Dancing Grannie for the first time.

Wilhelm Hospel, 81, whose wife Lola is a member of the dance group, was killed after being struck. Jane Kulich, a 52-year-old Citizens Bank teller who had been marching just behind the dance group with her company’s float, was also killed.

Virginia Sorenson was the choreographer for the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies and had been a member of the group for 19 years (Picture: Facebook)

Dancing Grannies confirmed on Facebook that members of their group died in the tragedy: ‘Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies. Their eyes gleamed…..joy of being a Grannie. They were the glue….held us together.’

Several other members of the group were badly injured, but are expected to make a recovery.

Sorenson, who had a bad back and bad hip, but still loved to dance, had been the groups choreographer, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The 19-year veteran of the Dancing Grannies was a registered nurse, who still worked part-time in medical records.

Her granddaughter Gabrielle Kamentz, who is studying nursing at Oshkosh College, posted a tribute to late grandmother on Monday.

LeAnna Owen was a 71-year-old member of the beloved Dancing Grannies group, known for partaking in holiday parades each year (Picture: Facebook)

‘She had such a good heart. Such a good soul. She was the glue that held the family together. I’m still in shock and trying to process this as I write. As I continue through nursing school, I will live that legacy to her,’ she shared. ‘My grandmother was an incredible nurse. I’m so proud to be following in her footsteps.’ 

Tamara Durand, the youngest group member, was excited for her first performance with the Dancing Grannies, her husband David Durand told The New York Times.

David wasn’t in attendance at the parade but described the scene once he arrived as ‘chaos’. The next time he saw his wife was at the morgue.

Citizens Bank confirmed to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Jane Kulich was walking with the parade float when she was struck, and died from her injuries.

Tamara Durand was a new member of the Dancing Grannies group who was excited for her first performance (Picture: Tamara Carlson family)
Jane Kulich was marching in the parade with Citizens Bank, where she worked (Picture: Facebook)

Kulich’s daughter, Taylor Smith, shared the news in a Facebook post. According to NPR, she wrote: ‘There’s no words. It’s so unreal. My mom was killed last night. We are told she didn’t suffer. Thank God. I’m so grateful I got to have her this long, but damn. She was walking in the parade last night. She was so happy. I love you mom. Rest in peace my beautiful angel.’

Theodore Hospel, 84, told The New York Post his brother Wilhelm died from internal bleeding and injuries to his pelvis.

‘His job was never done, but he was so healthy,’ Theodore said. ‘He was not on any major medication. He was a strong person and even would help me out a lot of times because he was so strong. I cannot believe it. It’s so tragic.’

Police in Wausheka say Brooks was allegedly fleeing a domestic disturbance with a report of a knife when he drove through the parade within its first hour.

Brooks ‘intentionally drove his maroon SUV through barricades into a crowd of people’, Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson said on Monday.

Police are drawing up five charges of intentional homicide against Brooks, Thompson said.

Wilhelm Hospel, 81, was at the parade with his wife, a Dancing Grannie, when he was struck and killed (Picture: Facebook)

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee said one of its priests, as well as multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic school children, were injured in the incident.

Children’s Wisconsin Hospital in Milwaukee had 18 children receiving treatment on Monday. Their ages range from three to 16 years old, and the victims include three sets of siblings. Six were said to be in critical condition, three were listed in serious condition and one person was reported to be in fair condition, hospital officials said.

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