Wisconsin parade watcher threw daughter out of harm's way: ‘If I had to get hit, I had to get hit’
A father whose family narrowly avoided getting struck by the driver of a speeding SUV at a Wisconsin Christmas parade on Sunday described the harrowing scene in which at least five people were killed.
Thomas Kluka Jr. was at the parade in Waukesha with his wife, their 14-year-old daughter and one of his daughter's friends when a red SUV came barreling toward them, missing them by only a few feet.
"I noticed him coming through the crowd and I noticed something was not right, and then I seen kind of like just people flying as I stood up," Kluka told Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb on TODAY Monday.
"I'm like 'Oh no.' My daughter stood up, I threw her out of the way, then I basically yelled, 'Get out of the way,' and my wife got out of the way, and by the time she did, the car came right past me within at least two feet. I could've touched the car going by."
At least five people were killed and more than 40 injured on Sunday when the red SUV barreled through the crowd around 4:30 p.m. local time at the 58th annual Christmas parade in Waukesha, just west of Milwaukee.
Kluka's said his daughter had been attending the parade with him her entire life, and he was grateful he was able to pull her to safety.
"I wanted to get her out of the way," he said. "That was my main concern was just to get her out of the way, just to make sure she was OK, her and her friend. If I had to get hit, I had to get hit, I was just making sure they got out of the way."
Five senior law enforcement officials briefed on the matter told NBC News that police are questioning a person of interest and that he may have a significant criminal history.
The sources believed the driver may have been fleeing an earlier knife fight. Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson confirmed at a news conference Sunday night that a person of interest had been taken into custody. At this stage of the investigation, there was no connection to terrorism, the sources said.
The horrific scene unfolded when a speeding SUV rammed through a barricaded street at a high rate of speed and plowed into a sea of people, many of them children.
One video showed the car nearly hitting a toddler, and one officer opened fire in an effort to stop the vehicle, according to the police chief. Parents desperately tried to find their children after being separated from them during the chaos.
Officials issued a shelter-in-place order, requesting that everyone stay away from the scene as they canvas the streets.
"Today our community faced horror and tragedy in what should’ve been a community celebration," Waukesha mayor Shawn Reilly said at a news conference.
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