Student from Grayslake witnesses panic and horror at Waukesha Christmas parade

  • Kaylee Staral, an intern for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and journalism major at Marquette University whose family moved to Waukesha, Wisconsin, from Grayslake over the summer, was among the first people to report on the tragic crash Sunday afternoon at the Waukesha Christmas parade.

    Kaylee Staral, an intern for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and journalism major at Marquette University whose family moved to Waukesha, Wisconsin, from Grayslake over the summer, was among the first people to report on the tragic crash Sunday afternoon at the Waukesha Christmas parade. Courtesy of Kaylee Staral, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 
 
Updated 11/22/2021 7:45 PM

Chaos, screaming and crying were what Kaylee Staral saw after a man drove his SUV through the Waukesha Christmas parade Sunday, killing five people and injuring many more.

Staral, who grew up in Grayslake and moved to Waukesha over the summer, attended the parade with her family as a way to connect with their new community. But the festivities came to a tragic halt late in the afternoon. By evening, Staral -- an intern for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and a journalism major at Marquette University -- was part of the unfolding national story.

 

"In that moment there's this fear and I'm thinking, 'What can I do?'" Staral on Monday recalled of the scene.

Staral quickly began to chronicle it.

She posted on Twitter: "UPDATE: A car just ran through the middle of a downtown Waukesha.l parade. Multiple people on the ground injured," becoming one of the first to report on the tragedy.

"I was not on assignment. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time," Staral said.

The parade kicked off around 4 p.m.

With COVID-19 having pushed off many events last year, Staral said the atmosphere was especially joyous, and children and families were everywhere.

Then the red SUV sped past around 4:35 p.m. and started to strike people down the road from where Staral and her family sat. Staral wrote in a piece for the Journal Sentinel that she could hear thuds as people were hit by the SUV.

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She wrote that four people were injured near where she was on the parade route. One of those struck was a 14-year-old girl who suffered a leg injury and called for her mom. A man carried the teen into a nearby store, where many people were running to get off the street.

Police officers ran past soon after the crash, and Staral heard one of them say that 30 people were down and that shots had been fired.

"When they said that, that causes more fear and even more panic, so I think a lot of people just booked it at that point, as did I," Staral said earlier Monday during a CNN interview with anchor John Berman.

The CNN interview was one of many Staral did after the parade. She said the advice she got from Journal Sentinel colleagues was not to overstate anything.

"I didn't want to spread any rumors, just say what you know and keep it at that," Staral said.

Authorities on Monday said Darrell E. Brooks is being charged with five counts of homicide for "intentionally" driving into the crowd.

The day after the tragedy, Staral said she hadn't had time to fully process what happened. She said her heart goes out to the people who were injured.

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