As It Happens

'I wish I could have done more,' says nurse who tended to wounded at Wisconsin Christmas parade

Jodi Singsime sprang into action on Sunday after a man drove an SUV into the Wisconsin Christmas parade she was attending with her family.

Jodi Singsime was with her family at the parade in Waukesha when an SUV drove into a crowd

Police investigate after a vehicle plowed through a Christmas Parade in Waukesha, Wis., killing at least 5 people. (Mike De Sisti/USA Today Network/Reuters)

Story Transcript

Jodi Singsime sprang into action on Sunday after a man drove an SUV into the Wisconsin Christmas parade she was attending with her family.

Once she had ensured that her two teenage boys and husband were all safe, together and out of harm's way, Singsime, a nurse, wandered into the streets to help the wounded. 

"I wish I could have done more," she told As It Happens host Carol Off.

On Sunday, man drove an SUV through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis., killing at least five people and injuring 48.

At least nine patients — most children — were listed in critical condition Monday at two hospitals, and seven others were reported in serious condition.

Police have arrested the driver, who they say was fleeing the scene of a domestic disturbance when he drove into the crowd of parade participants and onlookers. He is being charged with five counts of intentional homicide. 

Screaming and sounds like gunshots 

Singsime was there with her husband and two sons, aged 14 and 19.

"It's tradition. We go and we stand in the same spot every year," she said. "As my son had said earlier on a different channel, if they were any younger, they would have been in the street where he drove through, because they always sat down to get candy."

What began as a festive holiday scene of marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats and waving pompoms turned deadly in an instant, giving way to screams and scenes of crumpled bodies as the SUV sped through barricades and struck dancers, musicians and others.

Singsime says her husband spotted the SUV before she did, but he thought the driver was trying to navigate around the parade.

Then the vehicle slammed into the crowd of parade-goers and onlookers about a block away from where they were standing.

"Just the sound of him hitting the people, like, it won't leave my mind," she said. "The sound, it was like gunshots."

A stroller and some chairs litter the street after the parade turned deadly. (Jim Vondruska/Getty Images)

As she scanned the street for injured people, she heard someone yelling, "Active shooter!" So she and her husband gathered up their boys and hunkered down inside the store for safety. 

"After a few minutes, we realized that it was clear. I went back out," Singsime.

Police said Monday that one officer fired a gun at the SUV try to stop the driver, but ceased because of the danger to others. The driver was not injured. 

On her second foray into the streets, Singsime says she found a little boy laying down in the road. Another woman, also a nurse, was bent over him.

"I thought she was giving him CPR, but she was just checking to see if he was breathing," she said. "I checked for a pulse on his neck because he was turning purple, and there was blood around his head."

He had a pulse, she said, but his breathing was shallow and fading fast. She and the other nurse tended to the child until medics showed up. 

He was taken to hospital with a severe brain injury, she said. The last Singsime heard, he was among the children in critical condition.

Jodi Singsime, a nurse, was at the Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis., when a man drove an SUV through a crowd of participants and onlookers. (Jodi Singsime/Facebook)

Soon after, she again heard someone shouting that there was an active shooter on the scene, so she went back inside with her family until a police officer told them it was safe to leave.

"Your biggest thing that goes through your head is your family and just getting them to safety and making sure that we stay together," she said. "So that was our main intention — and then after is just trying to process what to do next."

Now that it's over, Singsime says she has a lot of questions about what happened. But her biggest one is: Why would someone do this?

"We're so innocent, thinking it was somebody that got their foot stuck on the gas. And then my husband saw the guy's face. He couldn't make him out, but he saw that he was just looking straight," she said. "And so just — why? I can't comprehend what goes through people's minds."

Singsime isn't sure whether she'll attend a vigil Monday night for the victims at the scene of the tragedy.

"I told my son that I'm not ready to be in a big group. I mean, I understand it's an isolated event, but I just don't want to be in a group where I can't escape," she said.

She says she's having a hard time processing what happened.

"I know my company offers an employee assistance program that I'm going to be reaching out to for counselling, because I know that we may each need to talk to somebody for this," she said.

"It's just so crazy that it just happened yesterday. It feels like a lifetime ago already."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview with Jodi Singsime produced by Kate McGillivray.

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