NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Authorities say that an out-of-control Honda Pilot plunged off a roadway near the Bronx Zoo on Sunday afternoon, killing seven people, including three children. The victims were all part of the same family, spanning three generations.
FDNY spokesman Jim Long said the victims were Jacob Nunez,85; Ana Julia Martinez, 81, Maria Nunez, 39, and three girls; Jocelyn Gonzalez, 10, Niely Nunez, 7, and 3-year-old Marly Nunez. Investigators told CBS 2 that the seventh victim, Maria Gonzalez, 45, was the driver.
Sources told 1010 WINS that the elderly man and his wife were the girls’ grandparents, in New York on a visit from the Dominican Republic. Jacob and Ana Julia had only been in the Bronx for three days to visit relatives, the group was on their way to a family gathering.
Jacob’s son Ignacio Nunez was so shocked by the death of his family that he told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin, through a translator, that he has no words to express how he feels.
“He can’t talk to you about what he feels, but he feels very, very badly,” said the translator.
1010 WINS reporter Sonia Rincon spoke with neighbors…
Investigators said the SUV was headed south on the Bronx River Parkway when it bounced off the median, crossed all southbound lanes over to the guard rail and fell 59 feet below onto zoo grounds. It’s not clear what caused the vehicle to go out of control, but authorities told CBS 2’s Ann Mercogliano that it appears to have been traveling at a high rate of speed.
“Obviously, the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed. It hit something to become airborne, it traveled over the railing, fell, and landed upside down when it hit the ground,” said FDNY Deputy Chief Ronald Werner.
The Pilot, which was completely crushed, came to rest upside down in an overgrown area of trees and brush that the zoo uses to store trams. No zoo visitors or animals have access to the area.
One firefighter was injured while searching the area, according to FDNY Deputy Chief Ron Werner.
No animals or zoo-goers were hurt in the accident, authorities confirmed.
The accident was the second in the past year to involve a car falling off of the same stretch of the Bronx River Parkway. Last June, the driver of a sport utility vehicle heading north, lost control, hit a divider, bounced through two lanes of traffic and fell 20 feet over a guard rail, landing on a pickup truck in a parking lot. The two people in the SUV were injured.
First responders told CBS 2 that a crash that involves children is always harder to cope with.
“When you see young kids that are hurt or injured or lose their life it’s always harder than when you find someone of an older age,” said EMS Division 2 Deputy Chief Howard Sickles.
Chief Sickles told 1010 WINS reporter Sonia Rincon that the crash was among the worst that he has ever seen.
“The injuries were quite horrific, in thirty years I’ve seen something like this once or twice,” he said.
1010 WINS reporter Sonia Rincon was on the scene…
While authorities work to determine the exact cause of the crash, other drivers told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin that low guard rails on the Bronx River Parkway have been a concern for a long time.
“A lot of blind spots on it, very narrow. You can’t pull off the roads in many spots, it needs to be revamped, it needs to be safer,” said Greenpoint, Brooklyn resident Antonio Russo.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr has promised a full investigation. He told CBS 2 that his office will reach out to the appropriate agencies to examine safety issues and discuss potential solutions, including parkway barriers and fences.
Diaz said that a similar accident happened last year, nobody was killed in that crash. In a 2006 crash, an Acura carrying seven people jumped the median and was crushed by an oncoming bus. That accident resulted in five deaths.
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