NEW YORK (AP) — An out-of-control SUV barreled across several lanes of traffic on a highway overpass Sunday, then plunged more than 50 feet off the side of the road and landed in a ravine on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo, killing all seven people aboard, including three children, authorities said.
The 2004 Honda Pilot apparently flipped over a 4-foot-high iron fence before landing upside-down on the property of the nation's largest city zoo. The cause of the crash was unclear, and police haven't yet said how fast the SUV was traveling. A city official said the guardrail's height would be one of the safety issues investigated.
Police identified the dead adults as Jacob Nunez, 85, and Ana Julia Martinez, 81, both from the Dominican Republic, and their daughters, Maria Gonzalez, 45, and Maria Nunez, 39, and three grandchildren. Police say Gonzalez was driving.
The children were identified as Jocelyn Gonzalez, 10, the daughter of the driver, Niely Rosario, 7, and Marly Rosario, 3, both daughters of Nunez.
The SUV was headed south on the Bronx River Parkway that cuts through a working-class neighborhood when it bounced off the median, crossed three southbound lanes and hit the curb, causing the vehicle to become airborne, continue over the guardrail and plunge 59 feet, police said.
"Obviously, the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed," FDNY deputy Chief Ronald Werner said. "It hit something that caused it to become airborne."
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.
" I've been in the fire department 30 years," Werner said. "Sometimes you come upon events that are horrific and this is one of them."