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Wisconsin parade crash was “like a war zone,” victim’s uncle says

▶ Watch Video: 5 killed in Wisconsin holiday parade tragedy include 3 “Dancing Grannies”

An Iraq War veteran whose 11-year-old niece was among those hurt in Sunday’s deadly crash at a Wisconsin holiday parade said the scene reminded him of war.

“It was like a war zone,” Ryan Kohnke told CBS News lead national correspondent David Begnaud.

“There were bodies everywhere. There was clothes. Everything abandoned,” he said. “People were screaming, looking for their loved ones. I could see some of the people that were trying to help the injured right away were huddled around them.”

Kohnke was at the parade in Waukesha to cheer on his niece, Jessalyn Torres, who was marching with her dance team. Shortly after waving to the camera, she was lying unconscious in the middle of the street. Now, she’s in the ICU facing multiple serious injuries.

Jessalyn was one of at least 18 children who were hurt when an SUV plowed through the crowd, killing five people, including members of a group called the “Dancing Grannies.”

Her uncle recalled the moment he saw the vehicle race by.

“He went pedal to the metal. And he guns it down the street,” Kohnke said. 

Kohnke said he then grabbed his kids and ran to where his sister, Jessalyn’s mother, would have been. He found his niece lying on the ground and “could tell there was a lot of damage,” he said.

“I was like, ‘There’s not much I can do here,'” Kohnke said.

New images of the crash show the force of the SUV as it raced through the parade. One of them captured a man pulling a child out of harm’s way as a person was thrown in the air.

Jessalyn, who is a member of the “Waukesha Xtreme Dance Team,” was also thrown by the vehicle after being hit and suffered a broken pelvis, lacerations to her liver and damage to her intestines, among other injuries, her family said. She was placed on a ventilator Monday, they said.

Children’s Wisconsin hospital now has more than a dozen people in the ICU. Dr. Michael Meyer said it’s been devastating.

“Just a big ball of raw emotions as you walk through the unit. People are shell-shocked,” Meyer told “CBS Mornings.” 

“You look at the families of the children that have been involved, and most of them don’t know which way to turn,” he said.

Despite the trauma of what happened on Sunday, Kohnke said that he spoke with his niece and that she is staying pretty positive.

“She said, ‘Tell them to glue me back together,'” he said.

Jessalyn’s mother said on a fundraising website that it will be “a roller coaster for a while” until her “long road to recovery” begins.



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