- The dead include three children, ages 10, 7 and 3, police say
- A 45-year-old woman was driving
- All the victims were wearing seat belts
- The vehicle landed in part of the Bronx Zoo, a zoo official says
Seven people, including three children, died Sunday when a vehicle flipped over a guardrail and plunged nearly 60 feet to the ground, landing upside down in an area of the Bronx Zoo that is closed to the public, officials said.
The crash occurred near the Bronx River Parkway and East 180th Street.
"Police determined that a 2004 Honda Pilot traveling southbound on the Bronx River Parkway in the left lane had struck the center median, crossed over three southbound lanes and struck the curb, causing the vehicle to become airborne and continue over the guardrail and fall approximately 59 feet down into a wooded area inside of Bronx Zoo property," the New York Police Department said in a statement.
Police identified the victims as driver Maria Gonzalez, 45; Jocelyn Gonzalez, 10; Maria Nunez, 39; Niely Rosario, 7; Marly Rosario, 3; Jacob Nunez, 85; and Ana Julia Martinez, 81.
All were pronounced dead at the scene and an investigation is ongoing, police said.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said all the victims were wearing seat belts. He had previously given the older girls' ages as 15 and 5.
Browne said the driver likely overcompensated when the left side of the SUV struck the barrier.
The vehicle was traveling at a high speed, said FDNY Deputy Chief Ronald Werner.
Zoo spokeswoman Mary Dixon said the vehicle landed just inside the southeast perimeter of the 265-acre zoo. A baby bag with diapers inside was found at the scene.
"It's far from any public area," Dixon said. "No animals, exhibits or visitors were affected. ... It would be impossible for any visitors to see this."
The area where the vehicle fell is adjacent to where the zoo's trams are parked, Werner said.
The fire department's Howard Sickles told reporters that in his 20 years he's "seen a lot of horrific things and this is one of them."
The crushed vehicle came to rest in overgrown brush, Werner said. Authorities used thermal imaging cameras to find victims in case any had been ejected, he said.
Authorities received multiple calls about the incident at about 12:30 p.m., Werner said.
In 2006, six people died in an accident on the Bronx River Parkway near the site of Sunday's crash.