An expert claims that inadequate guardrails led to the fatal Bronx Zoo SUV crash that killed three generations of one family this weekend.
According to Robert Sinclair, spokesman for the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) New York City arm, said that the Bronx River Parkway “lacks modern transportation engineering features,” wrote MSNBC with The Associated Press (AP). The section of the Bronx River Parkway where the deadly crash occurred has “narrow lanes, steep hills, tight turns, inadequate guardrails, and no breakdown lane,” wrote MSNBC/AP, citing AAA. Sinclair noted that the area, conceived in 1907 and opened in 1925, was described as “the first limited access multilane highway in the U.S.”
Three sections of the Parkway, which includes one at or near the site of this week’s accident, are on the state’s so-called “Transportation Department’s 5 Percent List,” a federally mandated report that lists those locations “exhibiting the most severe highway safety needs,” explained MSNBC/AP.
The overpass, close to the Bronx Zoo, has been known for serious accidents. According to a New York Daily News report, evidence of neglect in this area goes as far back as the 1970s, said MSNBC/AP. The Daily News wrote that critics have argued that city and state officials, long aware of the problem, have not acted on the matter, even in the face of numerous deaths there. An attorney suing New York City following a 2006 crash that killed six in the same area described that area of the parkway as being in need of improvement and a patchwork of fixes that don’t always meet up, said MSNBC/AP. As we wrote, the 2006 accident involved a vehicle falling from the same area of the Bronx River Parkway. Had the road been properly corrected, many deaths would have been prevented, he added. The family of those who died this weekend agreed.
Last June, the driver of an SUV was heading north on the parkway when the vehicle lost control, hit a divider, bounced through two lanes of traffic, and fell 20 feet over a guardrail, said Fox News Latino. The SUV crashed on a pickup truck in a parking lot; both passengers were hurt.
Maria Gonzalez, the driver of the vehicle, “clipped” a highway divider, damaging a tire. The vehicle then flew off the highway, plunging six stories into a ravine at the Bronx Zoo, said MSNBC/AP. The driver and all the passengers, including three children, were dead at the scene, according to police. The driver’s husband, Juan Gonzalez, blames the state, in part, for the deadly crash that cost him his family. “He says it’s very careless of the state to let that happen,” a relative said, translating for Gonzalez at the funeral home. “There’s been several incidents before this. Accidents such as this and they haven’t done anything to prevent this,” Gonzalez said, wrote MSNBC/AP.
Police said Maria Gonzalez was heading south at 68 mph when she hit a concrete barrier separating the north- and southbound lanes, explained MSNBC/AP. Driving with a damaged tire, her Honda Pilot crossed three traffic lanes, hit a two-foot-tall concrete curb, became airborne, flew over the four-foot guardrail, and plunged to the ravine.
New York Police Department (NYPD) spokesman Paul Browne said that although Gonzalez was speeding—the limit there is 50 mph—she might have been keeping up with traffic in an area where speeding is common. There was no evidence of texting, telephoning or drinking; however, toxicology testing is underway. “There’s no evidence of a mechanical failure,” he added, said MSNBC/AP. The deaths were ruled accidental and the result—in all seven cases—of blunt force trauma, according to the medical examiner’s office.
The NYPD’s accident investigation squad discovered “yaw marks” on the road, said Browne, which is indicative of a vehicle traveling perpendicular to traffic. As we’ve written, all seven victims were wearing their seat belts. Fox News Latino noted that not only did all seven people in the vehicle die, all seven were from three generations of the same family that lived just miles from the crash.
CBS Station WCBS reported that the victims were identified as Jacob Nunez (85) and Ana Julia Martinez (81); their daughters, Maria Gonzalez (45), who was driving; Maria Nunez (39); and three grandchildren, Niely (7) and Marly (3) Rosario and Jocelyn Gonzalez (20).