Young dancer dies after being hit by truck at Christmas parade

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 the girl had died in a press release attributed to Lieutenant Jason Borneo. 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 on Six Forks Road 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.

This GMC Denali pickup is the truck that struck a participant in the Raleigh Christmas parade on Saturday. Ethan Hyman

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.”

Personnel rush to where a person was injured during the Raleigh Christmas Parade on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Ethan Hyman

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 …”

Parade goers disperse after the Raleigh Christmas parade was cancelled when a truck pulling a float lost control and hit a parade participant near the intersection of Hillsborough Street and Boylan Avenue Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Tori Laurore, 11, a dancer with the CC & Co Dance Complex was taken to the hospital. Travis Long

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.

Participants of the dance troupe and adults leave Hillyer Memorial Christian Church after a truck pulling a float went out of control at the Raleigh Christmas Parade injuring at least one person Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Ethan Hyman

“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.”

A participant of the dance troupe gets a hug after leaving Hillyer Memorial Christian Church in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. A truck pulling a float went out of control at the Raleigh Christmas Parade injuring at least one person. Ethan Hyman

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.”

CC & Company sent a message to parents of its students via its Facebook page:

Josh Shaffer, Teddy Rosenbluth and Ethan Hyman contributed to this story.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

This story was originally published November 19, 2022 10:42 AM.

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Brian Gordon is the Innovate Raleigh reporter for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He writes about jobs, start-ups and all the big tech things transforming the Triangle.

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