'The girls were just hysterical': Witnesses describe chaos, heartbreak after child hit by pickup truck during Raleigh Christmas Parade
The Raleigh Christmas Parade was canceled on Saturday morning after a tragic turn of events led to an 11-year-old girl's death.Posted — Updated
Around 10:15, the parade was paused as police and medical personnel responded to the intersection of Hillsborough Street and Boylan Avenue.
An out-of-control pickup truck pulling a parade float hit a girl performing with CC & Company Dance Complex, a group that has performed in the parade in the past.
The girl was taken to the hospital, where she was declared dead. Her name was not released.
Other girls from the dance company could be seen crying, being hugged by family members.
The Raleigh Police Department said 20-year-old Landen Christopher Glass was arrested and charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, careless and reckless, improper equipment, unsafe movement, and carrying a firearm in a parade.
Court record show Glass had a number of non-moving violation tickets on his record in Virginia, including 4 tickets for failure to have a vehicle inspected, with the most recent on October 30. Other tickets included improper exhaust systems and no marker lights.
The tickets do not specify a particular vehicle.
A family member told WRAL News that Glass will not be making a statement. Glass was released on bond and carries a first court date of Jan. 26.
Posts on Glass's Instagram profile showed him participating in dance competitions representing CC & Company Dance Complex in 2018. It is not known in what capacity he is affiliated with the company as of 2022.
His social media pages also indicate that he owned a vehicle customization company and spent a lot of time working on his pickup truck.
Parents, bystanders scramble to help dancers after truck brakes fail
A woman who witnessed the incident spoke with WRAL, describing the chaotic scene:
"The girls kept dancing, and then very quickly parted as the truck moved through them. There were more dancers beyond this group. We were all, I think, wondering if it was part of the parade. Perhaps [the truck] picked up a little bit of speed and it kept honking, and then there was quite a bit more chaos. Everyone started to look confused. I do not know, perhaps the fire engine and other first responders helped stop the truck. I am not clear whether or not someone was hit on the ground."
Witnesses told WRAL News the driver of the white pickup truck pulling the CC & Co. Dance float was yelling that he had lost his brakes and could not stop. The truck then careened into the dancers as adults hustled them out of the road.
"All of a sudden we looked up and saw a truck on the other side of the road kind of coming towards us," said Worth Creech, an eyewitness. "They were able to get most of the girls out of the way. Unfortunately, we saw one of the girls get run over."
Another bystander told WRAL she saw the girl on the ground with a blanket covering her.
Christine Barnes, who watched the scene unfold, said, "[The driver] just couldn't stop. He was laying on the horn, but the girls just couldn't hear it because of the music and dancing, and so adults were trying to get kids out of the way as fast as possible."
"The girls were just hysterical," said Barnes. "It was really traumatizing."
She said the truck was on a decline, seemingly pushed downhill by the weight of the float behind it.
"The truck wasn't going that fast, but because the girls had no idea it was coming -- they just couldn't get out of the way. They were at the mercy of someone else moving them out of the way," she said.
She said the truck came within inches of hitting several other girls in the dance performance.
“As the truck got faster and faster and faster, you started seeing more volunteers jump in and grab their kids out of the way," said Barnes. "Some of them inches away from being hit by the truck.”
Barnes’ own daughter was in the parade but was not near the spot where this all happened. She said one of her daughter’s friends was among those dancers.
“She just started bawling crying," said Barnes. "It was terrible because her friend was almost hit by the truck.”
Some heroic people took action, including Raleigh police and first responders, sprinting after the truck to try and stop it.
Creech and his 12-year-old son ran with others to try and stop the truck, then he ran back to the victim.
"She was just lying there. People were trying to help her," said Creech. "There was a lot of blood, unfortunately. Everyone was crying."
Crying parents hurried to the scene from the parade route looking for their children.
WRAL spoke with Marilee Johnson and her daughter Megan shortly after they were reunited.
"I was upset and so I just tried to figure out where she was," said Johnson.
Her daughter added, "We didn't know what the truck was doing and we didn't know if we were supposed to move or anything."
State, local figures react to tragic parade crash
It marked a traumatic end to the 78th Annual Raleigh Christmas Parade. The parade lasted for about an hour before the accident.
"We are still in shock as we write these words to you. This morning's events have devastated us. We also know that many other young ones witnessed this tragedy and that is hard to fathom as well," the CC & Company Dance Complex said a statement Saturday. "We never expected to experience a day like today, and the only thing getting us through is the tremendous love and support we've seen expressed among our CC & Co. Dance family."
Ariana DeBose, Academy Award-winning actress, Raleigh native and former dancer with CC & Company Dance Complex, shared an instagram post from the company saying, "My heart breaks for my dance family ... I ask the Raleigh community to hold space for those good people whose lives will never be the same. "
Raleigh police chief Estella Patterson had no comment on the matter as of Saturday morning.
The intersection where the tragedy happened was closed for more than 7 hours as police examined the truck.
Raleigh police took special interest under the hood of the truck. They also examined the undercarriage and tires before it was towed a little before 5:30 p.m.
Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said, "Today started with such joy. The parade route was packed with smiling kids and it made my heart so happy to see. Now we are all devastated by the news of this tragic accident and praying for the victim and her family. It is heartbreaking.”
Baldwin later added that her "heart was heavy" upon learning of the death of the girl.
Governor Roy Cooper tweeted in the hours after the crash, "In a joyous season on what should be a happy day, we instead mourn for this family and their friends as we keep them in our prayers."
Shop Local Raleigh, one of the parade organizers, released a statement late Saturday that reads:
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