One person killed and another injured as the Pride Parade driver slams a vehicle into participants.
A member of a male choir group unintentionally drove a van into other choir members at the start of a pride parade in South Florida on Saturday, killing one member of the group and seriously injuring another, the group’s director said, correcting initial speculation that it was a hate crime directed against the gay community.
The incident happened at the start of the Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride parade and festival, an LGBTQ celebration in a town near Fort Lauderdale.
The white van was lined up with other floats for the parade as it sped up and struck pedestrians before crashing into a nursery, Local 10 News said.
Wilton Manors Deputy Mayor Paul Rolli and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said on Sunday that the preliminary investigation showed it was an accident.
The 77-year-old driver has been taken into custody, but police say no charges have been laid and an investigation is ongoing.
“Initial investigations now indicate that it appears to be a tragic accident, but no one is finally saying what it is,” Rolli told the Associated Press in an interview. telephone.
The driver and the victims were part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus family, a 25-member group made up mostly of older men.
“Our fellow Chorus members were injured and the driver is also part of the Chorus family. To my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community, ”President Justin Knight said in a statement on Sunday, calling it an“ unfortunate accident ”.
Rolli was on the tank in front of the chorus truck with Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and other city officials in a staging area where the tanks were being prepared.
Trantalis said the driver of a van suddenly accelerated when told he was next in the parade, crashing into the victims. The driver continued on all lanes of traffic, eventually crashing into a fence across the street, police said.
“People were really distraught and some were crying,” said Rolli, who explained that the crash happened in an area where the tanks were lined up, so there weren’t as many spectators.
Fort Lauderdale Police said no arrests had been made and that they were conducting a full investigation with the FBI, noting in a statement that they were “reviewing and assessing all possibilities.”
Trantalis, who is Fort Lauderdale’s first openly gay mayor, first told reporters the act was deliberate, adding to the confusion on Saturday night.
“It terrified me and everything around me… I was worried it might be intentional from what I saw a few feet away,” he said in a statement on Twitter on Sunday.
“As the facts continue to be gathered, an image emerges of an accident in which a truck lost control.”
Wilton Manors is a tight-knit community near Fort Lauderdale. Photos and video from the scene showed U.S. Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz in tears as she was in a convertible during the parade.
In a statement on Saturday night, Wasserman Schultz said she was safe but “deeply shaken and devastated by the loss of a life”.
“I am so heartbroken by what happened at this celebration,” she said. “May the memory of the lost life be a blessing.”
June is Pride Month, commemorating a June 1969 uprising that followed a police raid targeting gay patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. It was a catalyst for the gay rights movement.