A funeral service is being held Friday for the seven accident victims who died Sunday when their SUV fell from the Bronx River Parkway onto a remote area of the Bronx Zoo.
The service for the three generations of the Nunez family is being held at St. Raymond's Church in the Bronx.
Jacob Nunez, 85, and Ana Julia Martinez, 81, were visiting the United States from the Dominican Republic when they were killed in the crash along with their daughters Maria Gonzalez, 45, and Maria Nunez, 39. Their three grandchildren Jocelyn Gonzalez, 10, Niely Rosario ,7, and Marly Rosario, 3, also died in the accident.
Police said that Maria Gonzalez was driving the 2004 Honda Pilot when she hit a divider on the highway, damaging a tire just before going airborne and plunging about 60 feet onto the grounds of the Bronx Zoo. Authorities have known for years the section of the highway where the accident happened was a troubled spot.
The New York Department of Transportation has told the Associated Press that new concrete barriers will be installed along the Bronx River Parkway.
A Nation Helps
Days after the accident members of the Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, a Latino university fraternity, created The Jonel Gonzalez Family fund to raise $100,000 to help their grieving brother Jonel bury his mother and his other relatives. More than $100,000 was raised.
Gian Macri, who is the fraternity's treasurer at the St .John's University's chapter, said he met Jonel a few months ago and found him very charismatic and humble.
He cares for so many people and shows it with his selfless actions, Macri said. I met him while he was pledging into the fraternity and met his mother and sister at an event.
When he read about the incident online, Macri said it was devastating. Then he got a phone call while driving, telling him it was his friend's family.
I had to pull over, he said. To hear that I know the person whose family this happened to was too much to handle. I broke down. There was nothing I could do at that point but to grieve for them. Then I had to act. I had to do what was right.
Macri said creating the online donation fund was the right thing to do.
I know that if I was in his shoes, I would hope someone would be there to help me out as well, he said. Jonel is going through a lot. He is a very strong heart and the last thing he needs on his mind right now is to worry about money.
There is nothing that can take the pain away, but this will definitely relieve some stress on the family, Macri added.
He said he has also contacted an airline to see how they can help with flying bodies back to the Dominican Republic.
Overwhelmed By The Support
Jonel Gonzalez issued a statement through the fraternity, saying that he is overwhelmed by all the support for his family.
I really can't thank them enough for how much of a help they are becoming, he said. When I found out how much was being raised, I couldn't believe that it was actually happening.