Deadly Bronx Zoo Crash Was Accidental, Police Say

A stretch of a New York City roadway has become the focus of frustration after a fatal accident

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Louis Lanzano / AP

Police investigate the destroyed van that plunged over the Bronx River Parkway

Police say a tragic, multi-fatality car crash in New York was caused when the driver of a minivan hit a highway median and damaged a tire, causing the devastating accident Sunday afternoon.

At a press briefing police said Maria Gonzalez 45, was driving a 2004 Honda Pilot around 12:30 p.m. Sunday when she clipped the median, dividing the northbound and southbound traffic on an elevated stretch of the Bronx River Parkway. The speed limit on that part of the road is 50 mph, Gonzalez was driving 68 mph. When she hit the median, it damaged her tire, causing her to lose control and careen across three lanes of traffic, vaulting over a four-foot guard rail and into a ravine in the Bronx Zoo, 60 feet below.

Gonzalez and the six other passengers, all relatives, including her parents visiting from the Dominican Republic, died on impact.

Her husband, Juan, said his wife has had a driver’s license for five years and had no accidents on her record.

Earlier, attorney Eric Buckvar, who sued New York’s municipal and state governments over a fatal 2006 wreck on an elevated roadway in the Bronx told the New York Daily News that Sunday’s crash could have been avoided if road commissioners had been wary of the danger.

“I think it would be fair to say that this is the Bermuda Triangle of the Bronx River Parkway.”

(MORE: Officials Probe SUV Accident That Killed 7)

Buckvar said while researching the dangerous stretch, he found that cars often lost control while negotiating the road. He said officials considered installing a new lane, but opted for plans to replace the entire viaduct. “We did a lot of discovery of state records, and we found there was a problem.”

In Buckvar’s case an Acura Legend jumped a barricade and smashed into oncoming traffic, killing five including an 8-year-old girl. The case was settled, and the city agreed to insert a better median, but it did not stop dangerous accidents from taking place.  In 2011, another car hit the median and went airborne, although that driver survived the crash.

Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz issued a statement in which he promised to address the dangers of the road. “In the coming weeks my office will reach out to the appropriate agencies to examine the safety issues on the Bronx River Parkway and to discuss potential solutions,” he said.