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Seven die when SUV plunges off New York overpass onto zoo grounds

NEW YORK — An out-of-control SUV barreled across several lanes of traffic on a highway overpass 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, including three children, authorities said.

The SUV apparently flipped over a 4-foot-high iron fence before landing upside-down on the property of the nation's largest city zoo. The cause of the crash was unclear, and police haven't yet said how fast the SUV was traveling. A city official said the guardrail's height would be one of the safety issues investigated.

Police identified the dead adults as 85-year-old Jacob Nunez and 81-year-old Ana Julia Martinez, both from the Dominican Republic, and their daughters, 45-year-old Maria Gonzalez, and 39-year-old Maria Nunez, both from the Bronx. Police say Gonzalez was driving.

The children were identified as 10-year-old Jocelyn Gonzalez, the daughter of the driver, and 7-year-old Niely Rosario and 3-year-old Marly Rosario, both daughters of Nunez.

Police said the Honda Pilot was headed south on the highway that cuts through a working-class neighborhood when it bounced off the median, crossed all southbound lanes and hit the guardrail.

"Obviously, the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed," Fire Department Deputy Chief Ronald Werner said. "It hit something that caused it to become airborne."

The SUV landed in a wooded area on the edge of 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.

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

Seven die when SUV plunges off New York overpass onto zoo grounds 04/29/12 [Last modified: Sunday, April 29, 2012 11:10pm]

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