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Young dance troupe member dies after being hit by truck at Raleigh Christmas parade

RALEIGH, N.C. — A girl who was part of a dance troupe taking part in the Raleigh Christmas Parade died Saturday when she was hit by a pickup truck towing one of the troupe’s floats.

The parade was canceled immediately after the incident.

Two sources confirmed the girl’s death to the N&O. The Raleigh Police Department later stated in a news release attributed to Lt. Jason Borneo that the girl had died. The RPD added that the driver of the truck has been charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, careless and reckless driving, improper equipment, unsafe movement and carrying a firearm in a parade.

The girl, who has not been identified, was a member of CC & Company Dance Complex, a widely respected dance school in Raleigh. Christy Curtis, founder of CC & Co., was an early dance teacher of Ariana DeBose, who won an Academy Award for her performance in “West Side Story.”

The truck, a GMC Denali, was pulling one of two CC & Company floats when it went out of control, according to ABC11, The News & Observer’s newsgathering partner. ABC11 said the driver was honking his horn and yelling for people to get out of the way.

Spectators heard screams before a group of people ran into the street and managed to stop the truck by hand.

Police were inspecting the truck after the incident, but had not released any information about possible mechanical failures. It was thought that the truck’s brakes had failed.

CC & Company had two floats in the parade, with members of the company performing in between them, when the truck pulling the second float went out of control.

Olivia Bruce, 14, a member of the dance troupe, said, “We started dancing in the parade, and then all of a sudden, we just heard a lot of honking. And when we turned back, we saw the truck almost on our backs, so we turned away.”

“The truck just kept going faster,” Olivia said, “and then it stopped and someone was laid out on the ground. It was pretty close (to me). I moved out in seconds — almost got hit, too.”

Members of the troupe, still wearing neon green dance studio shirts, and their parents gathered in and around Hillyer Memorial Christian Church on Hillsborough Street.

Cheyenne Hamilton, 17, a senior at Enloe Magnet High School, has been dancing for almost 13 years.

“We had just started the parade. The dancers were in the middle of the two (CC & Company) floats. The float behind us, their brakes started not working. And they were trying to get us all out of the way. But unfortunately, one of the dancers was not able to get out of the way. They pulled (the dancer) out right in front of us ...”

Along the parade route, hundreds of performers turned around and hastily backed out, packing up trombones and deflating balloons.

The mood went immediately from green and red to black as word spread of the accident. People practicing Irish dance steps, twirling batons, tuning horns, sneaking nips from flasks suddenly turned somber.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Julia Milstead, a city spokeswoman. “We don’t know what happened, but it’s heartbreaking. There are no words for what anyone is feeling right now.”

“Today started with such joy,” said Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin. “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.”

The mayor later tweeted:

“Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of the young girl who lost her life today at the Raleigh Christmas Parade. Our prayers are with her family, friends and the dancers from CC & Co. The community is here for you as we try to understand and process this shared tragedy.”

Gov. Roy Cooper, whose wife, Kristin, had tweeted about the death earlier in the day, said in a tweet Saturday afternoon, “Kristin and I are devastated about the tragedy at today’s Raleigh Christmas Parade. 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.”

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