Three generations of a Bronx-Dominican family died on Sunday when an SUV carrying seven people plummeted off an overpass and plunged 60 feet before landing in the Bronx Zoo, instantly killing everyone inside and destroying the vehicle.
FDNY deputy Chief Ronald Werner described the crash as horrific, according to ABC.
Authorities are still working to determine what caused the accident last Sunday and caused the deaths of Jacob Nunez, 85, and Ana Julia Martinez, 81, both from the Dominican Republic, their daughters, Maria Gonzalez, 45, and Maria Nunez, 39, and three grandchildren (Jocelyn Gonzalez, 10, the daughter of the driver, Niely Rosario, 7, and Marly Rosario, 3, both daughters of Nunez). Police reportedly believe that Gonzalez was driving the car prior to the accident, and that all the victims were wearing their seatbelts during the crush.
The accident occurred at 12:30 pm on Sunday as the family was travelling South at a speed of around 70 mph in a 50-mph, according to the Daily News. The mini-van was in the left lane when it inexplicably flew across three lanes of traffic before plummeting off the edge of the parkway, sailing over the 4-foot-high iron guardrail.
It hit something that caused it to become airborne, Werner explained.
Investigators believe that the driver became distracted, causing them to let the car hit the median. An witness reportedly saw one of the SUV's tire's blow out, but the police do not believe that was what caused of the accident.
We believe that the driver may have struck a (temporary) barrier and, reacting to the strike of that barrier, the driver makes a severe turn, a right-hand turn and goes over the (side), which is a 60-foot drop, NYPC spokesman Paul Browne told the Daily News.
The victims were found crumpled inside the upside-down SUV in a remote overgrown patch of land in the southeast section of the zoo beneath the Bronx River Parkway.
The section of the zoo where the accident occurred was blocked off for several hours as official worked to determine the cause of the crash.
The family's neighbor, Felicia Lee, 29, was shocked to hear the news.
They were a good, wholesome family, she told the Daily News. I can't believe it. I'm so sad, very sad. It's so horrible.
This particular strip of the Bronx River Parkway has seen an unusually high number of deadly crashes in the recent past, earning it the unofficial name, Parkway's 'Bermuda Triangle.' In 2006 a crash occurred at the same spot, killing six members of one family. Last June an SUV driver lost control after hitting a divider, causing them to careen through two lanes of traffic before falling 20 feet onto a parked pickup truck.
The bodies of the Nunez-Gonzalez family were brought to the Jacobi Medical Center following the accident.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this tragic time, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement.