Two young girls were killed and dozens of people were injured when a car veered into a group of children walking in a parade.
The victims include Morgan Geyser, 12, and Anissa Weier, 12, two friends who reportedly dreamed of becoming medical professionals.
After the crash, Geyser reportedly texted her mother: “Just hit people. I hit people. This is not a game,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The girls reportedly confessed to their mom that they were holding a party at their home and hid the vehicle, officials said. The group also claimed they wanted to “start a race,” according to CNN affiliate WISN.
“They admitted that they drove around for about 10 or 15 minutes, turning over cones, in order to engage in what they call a game,” Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said.
The drivers’ parents are in custody, and the white Ford Expedition was impounded for safety inspection, Madison Police Department Deputy Chief Bruce Hamilton said. Neither driver received a medical exam while they were children and supervised under parental care, he said.
Former classmates describe Morgan and Anissa as kind girls.
“I grew up with them since kindergarten, and they were always such kind kids,” said Stephanie Wilczewski, who now attends Lakeland Middle School in Wisconsin. “A lot of the other kids have said they could never imagine these two girls being responsible for something so atrocious and horrible.”
At least eight victims remain hospitalized, two of whom are in critical condition, Hamilton said.
Suspect appears competent
When deputies made contact with the SUV’s driver after the crash, he was “extremely incoherent,” according to a release. He told investigators “he may have blacked out and couldn’t remember driving,” the sheriff’s office said.
He was held under a $1 million cash bond after his initial appearance in court Tuesday.
In court, the suspect “stated several times that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing,” the sheriff’s office said.
His preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 9.
Court documents show no history of arrests for the suspect, and both parents are cooperating with police. A preliminary investigation found no criminality on the part of the driver, the sheriff’s office said.
A parent, watching the parade from a house across the street, told CNN affiliate WISN that she could hear the driver speeding before the crash.
‘A lot of fear for the parents’
“She was trying to calm him down,” Katie Ervin told the station. “He wouldn’t talk to her, and he just said, ‘I don’t remember.’ ”
Although she was down on the ground, Ervin said she continued to try to comfort and encourage the driver.
As the parents continued to search for their children, another group of children ran toward the cars, in fear, she said. They were taken to the sheriff’s office.
“(The parents) were just saying their children are gone. I could just see in their eyes a lot of fear for the parents,” Ervin said.
Chaos and heartbreak
Witnesses described the chaos and heartbreak.
Zoey Kurtz, 13, suffered multiple scrapes and bruises, CNN affiliate WTMJ reported.
“The screaming was really loud and you could just see kids running to get away from them,” she told the station.
“I saw the gentleman on top of the car running from the crowd of kids running, screaming as he ran,” Kurtz said. “It was just chaos, it was a lot of people trying to get out of the way.”
Meanwhile, others helped those in need.
“You heard a lot of screaming and a lot of people running to get away,” John T. Williams told WTMJ. “There was a lady standing by the police car, and she looked down and it was a child lying on her.”
“She took off running after she saw the child there, picked up the child, and then ran back to the police car, so she could be with the police,” Williams said.