Waukesha Christmas Parade: Three dancing grannies among Wisconsin victims

6 days ago 9

Image source, Reuters

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A candlelit vigil for the victims of the parade incident in Waukesha

Four of the five people killed by an SUV which ploughed through a Wisconsin Christmas parade on Sunday were members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a local dance troupe.

The victims were between the ages of 52 and 81.

Nearly 50 other people - including a Catholic priest and schoolchildren - were injured and dozens remain in local hospitals.

"Our group was doing what they loved, performing in front of crowds in a parade," the group said in a statement on Monday after the incident. "Putting smiles on faces of all ages, filling them with joy and happiness."

The group grew out of an exercise class in 1984, with dozens of women, most ranging in age from their mid-50s to mid-70s, becoming members over the years - with only one requirement: they needed to be a grandmother to join, the Associated Press reports.

Three of the victims were dancing grannies themselves while the fourth victim was married to one of them and helped out with the group when required.

Tamara Durand, 52

Image source, Dave Durand

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Tamara Durand with her husband Dave

According to the Wisconsin-based Daily Citizen, Ms Durand was a former school teacher in the town of Beaver Dam. Her LinkedIn page says she was a chaplain at Waukesha Memorial Hospital.

The Citizen reports that Ms Durand was participating in the parade as a first-time member of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies. The group meets once a week to practise for about 25 parades each year.

In 2009, Ms Durand made headlines after rescuing a man from drowning in the Wisconsin River.

Her husband, Dave Durand, who was not at the parade, told the New York Times that he identified his wife's body in the morgue.

"She was vibrant, energetic," the entrepreneur told the newspaper. "Everyone knew her. She was that kind of person that captured your attention as soon as she walked into the room."

Virginia Sorenson, 79

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Virginia Sorenson loved the "camaraderie" of the dancing group, her husband said

A registered nurse who worked part-time handling medical records, Mrs Sorenson was a long-time member of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies.

Her husband of 56 years, Dave Sorenson, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that she liked "everything" about the group.

"She liked the instructing. She liked the dancing and the camaraderie of the women," he said. "She liked to perform."

Mr Sorenson told the newspaper that his wife had offered to help the group carry a banner down the street when the incident took place.

LeAnna Owen, 71

LeAnna Owen was also a member of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

She was the manager at Packard Glen Apartments in Cudahy, Wisconsin for almost 10 years, CNN reports. Staff posted a notice informing residents of her death.

"This was one of her passions that she truly loved," the statement said. "She was so proud to be part of this group and lit up when she talked about it."

Wilhelm Hospel, 81

Wilhelm Hospel was also associated with the Dancing Grannies. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, his wife Lola was a member of the group and Mr Hospel was a familiar presence among them as he helped to ferry the dancers about.

His brother, Theodore, told the New York Post that Mr Hospel, who was the youngest of five brothers, died after suffering internal bleeding and injuries to his pelvis.

He told the newspaper that his brother was healthy and spent his spare time repairing things around his home.

"He was so strong. I cannot believe it," Theodore said.

Jane Kulich, 52

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Ms Kulich was described as "a loving, beautiful and charismatic mother"

Ms Kulich reportedly worked at Citizens Bank, which in a statement quoted by local media confirmed that "one of our team members who was walking with the parade float was struck and passed away as a result of her injuries".

On her LinkedIn page, Ms Kulich described herself as a "very hard worker" who enjoyed helping others.

A GoFundMe page set up to pay for funeral costs described her as "a loving, beautiful and charismatic mother, grandmother and friend to so many".

In a Facebook post, her daughter Taylor Smith reportedly wrote: "My mom was killed last night. We are told she didn't suffer."

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