Bronx SUV crash kills 7 family members, leaving unanswered questions

The investigation is continuing into a horrific SUV crash near the Bronx Zoo in New York that killed seven people from three generations of one family. Now the questions into the crash begin as authorities work to figure out what happened.

The family members were traveling south on the Bronx River Parkway next to the grounds of The Bronx Zoo when the 2004 Honda Pilot SUV they were riding in “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,” according to a story by The Associated Press (AP).

The crash killed Jacob Nunez, 85, and Ana Julia Martinez, 81, who were visiting from the Dominican Republic, their daughters, Maria Gonzalez, 45, and Maria Nunez, 39, and three grandchildren, ages 10, 7 and 3, the story reported. Gonzalez was driving, according to police.

Emergency crews arrive to assist at the scene of an overturned SUV in this stock photo of an accident. Image credit: ©

All of the victims were wearing seat belts, and no other vehicles appeared to be involved in the crash, police said.

The cause of the crash is not yet clear, the AP story reported. The vehicle didn’t hit the guardrail but apparently went over it after striking the median and hitting a curb which propelled it into the air, according to accident investigators. The vehicle landed on its roof, killing all seven passengers instantly.

This wasn’t the first crash in that same stretch of roadway recently, the story said. “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 over a guardrail, landing on a pickup truck in a parking lot,” the story said. No one died in the earlier crash.

This latest crash has inspired the borough president of the Bronx to ask city agencies to “look at safety issues on the highway including guardrail height,” according to the AP.

Because this was the second similar crash in a year in the same area, authorities will take a look to see if higher fences and guardrails are needed, according to a blog post by The New York Times.

“After this happened one time, I think there’s some thought that it’s freak occurrence,” said John DeSio, a spokesman for the Bronx Borough president. “But it has happened again. So we’ll be speaking to the appropriate agencies and examining whether appropriate safety measures, such as higher fences and guard rails, should be taken.”

A story in The New York Post reported that the Honda Pilot was traveling “‘at a high rate of speed’ — about 70 mph in a 50-mph zone — when it suddenly veered into the center divider at about 12:30 p.m.,” according to police.

“They flew right over the guardrail, didn’t even touch it,” a law-enforcement source told the paper.

Another official told the paper that they believed that the vehicle accidentally struck the median divider, then the driver tried to correct the error and turned right, causing the vehicle to go over the guardrail.

For the families, the grief and healing processes have begun and it will take quite some time for true healing to arrive.

For investigators, the crash leaves many questions that will have to be answered, including how could the vehicle have jumped over a guardrail that was allegedly meant to contain a vehicle so it wouldn’t careen off the road and into the deadly area below?

That’s one of the issues that attorneys will no doubt investigate if the family would decide to file lawsuits in connection with the crash.

Could a low guardrail at the scene of the crash contributed to the deaths of the passengers?

How did the design for a low guardrail gain approvals when the road was built?

Was this all investigated when another similar crash occurred in the area last June, when another vehicle went over the guardrail?

If not, why not?

Those are the kinds of things that professional attorneys investigate on behalf of their clients so that no stone is unturned when working to assist clients who have suffered losses and injuries.

The answers in this crash are still out there.

We hope that officials in the Bronx quickly determine whether safety improvements need to be made along this stretch so that future tragedies can be avoided.

If you or your loved ones are involved in a vehicle crash which leaves you seriously injured, we here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to discuss your case and help you plan your legal strategy.

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