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Van plunges off NY road into zoo grounds; 7 killed

3:26 PM, Apr 29, 2012   |    comments
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NEW YORK -- An out-of-control van careered across several lanes of traffic on a New York City highway Sunday, then plunged more than 50 feet off the side of the road and landed in a ravine on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo, killing all seven people aboard, authorities said.

Three of the victims were children, fire department spokesman Jim Long said, including girls ages 12 and 10 and a younger girl whose age wasn't known.

The others were an 84-year-old man and three women, ages 80, 45 and 30. Long didn't name them. The van was headed south when it bounced off the median and crossed all southbound lanes over to the guardrail, police said.

It likely flipped over the edge of the highway; next to the road is a pedestrian path, and the barriers on either side of that walkway were intact after the accident.

The van landed nearly upside down on zoo property that's closed to the public and far from any animal exhibits, zoo spokeswoman Mary Dixon said.

The vehicle lay mangled hours later, its right doors ripped off and strewn amid the trees along with items from the car. It's not clear what caused the van to go out of control.

The southbound side of the highway was closed briefly Sunday afternoon while police investigated.

The accident was the second in the past year where a car fell off the same stretch of the Bronx River Parkway.

Last June, the driver of a sport utility vehicle 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 two people in the SUV were injured.

City agencies will be asked to look at safety issues on the highway including guardrail height, Bronx borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement Sunday.

"My prayers, as well as those of my office and all Bronxites, go out to the families of the seven victims," he said.

The wreck was the deadliest in New York City since the driver of a tour bus returning from a Connecticut casino in March of 2011 lost control and slammed into a pole that sheared the bus nearly end to end, killing 14 passengers.

The Associated Press

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