SUV plunges off US road into zoo grounds; 7 killed
NEW YORK – An out-of-control SUV barrelled across several lanes of traffic on a highway overpass Sunday, then plunged more than 50 feet (15 meters) off the side of the road and landed in a ravine on the grounds of the nation’s largest city zoo, killing all seven people aboard, including three children, authorities said.
The SUV apparently flipped over a 4-foot (1.2-meter)-high iron fence before landing upside-down on the Bronx Zoo property. The cause of the crash was unclear, and police said they didn’t yet know how fast the SUV was traveling. A city official said the guardrail’s height would be one of the safety issues investigated.
The victims were three girls, ages 3 to 10, an 84-year-old man and three women, ages 80, 45 and 39, police said. The 45-year-old woman was driving. The victims’ names weren’t immediately released.
The Honda Pilot was headed south on the highway that cuts through a working-class neighborhood when it bounced off the median, crossed all southbound lanes and hit the guardrail, police said.
The SUV landed in a wooded area on the edge of zoo property that’s closed to the public and far from any animal exhibits, zoo spokeswoman Mary Dixon said. The vehicle lay mangled hours later, its right doors ripped off and strewn amid the trees along with items from the car. Next to the heavily wooded area are subway tracks and a train yard.
It’s not clear what caused the SUV to go out of control. The southbound side of the highway was closed briefly Sunday afternoon while police investigated but later reopened.
The medical examiner’s office said it expected to release the victims’ causes of death on Monday.
The accident was the second in the past year where a car fell off the same stretch of the Bronx River Parkway. Last June, the driver of an SUV heading north lost control and the SUV hit a divider, bounced through two lanes of traffic and fell 20 feet (6 meters) over a guardrail, landing on a pickup truck in a parking lot. The two people in the SUV were injured.
City agencies will be asked to look at safety issues on the highway including guardrail height, Bronx borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement Sunday.
“My prayers, as well as those of my office and all Bronxites, go out to the families of the seven victims,” he said.
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