The Bronx Zoo saw a horrible tragedy yesterday when an SUV carrying three generations of the same family fell almost 60 feet onto the Bronx Zoo property. All seven family members were killed even though every person had been wearing a seatbelt. The medical examiner’s office is said to release the cause of death for each victim later today.
The Bronx Zoo property off of the Bronx River Parkway is littered with the personal effects of the family members. The victims include the driver, Maria Gonzalez, 45, her sister, Maria Nunez, 39, their parents, Jacob Nunez, 85, and Ana Julia Martinez, 81, her sister’s two daughters, Niely Rosario, 7, and Marly Rosario, 3, and Gonzalez’s daughter, Jocelyn, 10.
The police said that Gonzalez was driving a 2004 Honda Pilot going south on the Bronx River Parkway above the Bronx Zoo around noon when she lost control. Apparently, she hit the center median and then veered across three southbound lanes, then hit a curb that probably caused the car to bounce over the guardrail into the unpopulated grounds of the Bronx Zoo. FDNY deputy Chief Ronald Werner said, “Obviously, the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed. It hit something that caused it to become airborne.” Police estimate that the SUZ was traveling about 70 mph. No animals or zoo goers were involved.
According to reports, this fatal accident was the second of its kind this year. The problem lies in the guardrails above the Bronx Zoo because they are only about four feet high. The Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. said, “It really is not as tall as many of the [vehicle] doors here. So it’s time at least in this portion of the parkway where it’s elevated … to call for higher railings. If not, this going to happen again.” He continued, “My prayers, as well as those of my office and all Bronxites, go out to the families of the seven victims.”
The family had been on their way to a family party when they plunged onto the Bronx Zoo property; the driver’s parents had arrived from the Dominican Republic three days earlier. Juan Gonzalez, husband of the driver, said, “I don’t want to live any more. I want to die.”
This accident at the Bronx Zoo is the deadliest in New York since March of last year when the driver of a tour bus that was returning from a Connecticut casino “lost control and slammed into a pole that sheared the bus nearly end to end, killing 14 passengers,” reported the Lompoc Record.