A speeding van drove over the railing of an elevated highway and fell 60 feet into the Bronx Zoo in a horrific accident that left seven people dead, authorities said.
The van was driving "at a high rate of speed" southbound in the left lane on the Bronx River Parkway at about 12:30 p.m. when it struck the median divider, ricocheted across all lanes of traffic, flew over the railing and plummeted to the ground, officials said. It is unknown what caused the van to lose control.
The vehicle landed in the southeast part of the Bronx Zoo in a heavily-wooded area that is closed to the public and has no animals, a zoo spokeswoman said.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the driver was a 45-year-old woman, and that the victims included a man and woman in their 80s, a 39-year-old woman and three girls, ages 3, 5, and 15. All were killed.
“We believe that the driver, who was travelling in the left hand lane, struck the Jersey barrier, and in reacting and trying to correct, turned right, went through the barrier and dropped 60 feet,” Kelly said while appearing at an event in Queens
Firefighters were shaken at the scene of the deadly accident.
“It’s terrible, just carnage. The passengers didn’t stand a chance,” an FDNY source at the scene told The Post.
“The vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed it hit something that caused it to be airborne over the railing,” said FDNY Deputy Chief Ronald Werner
“They flew right over the guardrail, didn’t even touch it,” another law enforcement source said.
“The car was crushed upside down. Seven victims were removed from the car, they were pronounced dead on the scene,” said Werner, adding that one firefighter suffered a minor injury during a subsequent search of the heavily-wooded area.
Cops with dogs and in a helicopter using thermal imaging searched the area to make sure there were no other victims.
Werner described a heartbreaking scene.
“I’ve been in the fire department 30 years, sometimes you come upon events that are horrific and this was one of them. You see young kids hurt or lose their life it’s always harder than when you find someone in an older age. It effects all our units,” he said.
Elected officials offered their condolences today in the wake of the tragedy.
“My prayers, as well as those of my office and all Bronxites, go out to the families of the seven victims of today’s accident on the Bronx River Parkway," Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with them as they try to grasp the horrific tragedy that has befallen them today."
Alluding to last year's crash involving Bronx Democratic male district leader Michael Robles, Diaz said that his office would reach out the appropriate agencies to examine safety issues on the parkway and discuss potential solutions to the issue, like "road condition and barrier/fence height."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this tragic time," Mayor Bloomberg said today.
The crash is the city’s deadliest since March, 2011, when a crowded bus heading back to Chinatown from Connecticut's Mohegan Sun casino was split in half on Interstate 95 in The Bronx — leaving 14 passengers dead and a blood-soaked mess of severed body parts, crumpled metal and broken glass strewn on the highway.
Cops then said the bus careened off a guardrail, was knocked on its side and skidded 300 feet into the Hutchinson River Parkway exit sign’s stanchion. The steel pole violently sliced through the bus at passengers’ eye level.
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