A horrifying crash killed seven members of the Bronx family when the SUV they were traveling in plunged more than 50 feet off a highway and landed on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo.
Officials were trying to determine what was the cause for Sunday's crash, which happened at 12:30 pm and killed 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.
Police say Gonzalez was the driver.
Three little girls died in the accident. They were identified as Jocelyn Gonzalez, 10, the daughter of the driver; Niely Rosario, 7, and Marly Rosario, 3, both daughters of Nunez.
A police spokesman said that the Honda was heading south in the passing lane when it lost control and struck the median. A witness of the scene reported that a tire had blown.
"Obviously, the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed," FDNY deputy Chief Ronald Werner said in an interview after the crash. "It hit something that caused it to become airborne.”
"Sometimes you come upon events that are horrific and this is one of them," Werner added.
The Bronx Zoo’s representative confirmed that the ill-fated SUV landed near the zoo’s boundary. He said, “This did happen on the southeast side of the zoo, far from any public areas, where there were no people, no animals, and no exhibits." Much of the zoo’s 265 acres are wooded and not in use.
A Police official said the guardrail's height and safety would be considered during the investigation. The guardrail showed no signs of impact. Investigators believe that the vehicle hit a curb that propelled it directly over the fence and it landed upside down.
Maria Gonzalez, the driver, was a maintenance worker at Fordham University.
A Fordham University official confirmed the report that both Maria Nunez-Gonzalez and her sister, Maria Nunez, worked at the university.
According to NYDaily News, Fordham President Joseph McShane offered condolence, saying, “It is hard to imagine a more tragic loss for a family, nor a more terrible grief than their loved ones must be enduring.”
He further said, “The friends and co-workers of the victims, and the entire Fordham community, hold the Gonzalez and Nunez families in their hearts tonight, and our thoughts and prayers are with their family members, their loved ones and their friend.”