The SUV was carrying a family returning home from a Nigerian benefit, wrote the Times Ledger. The car flipped over in Jamaica early on Sunday morning. Three people survived and are in stable condition, according to the police and family members.
The eight were riding in a black Mercedes Benz SUV that was traveling east on Atlantic Avenue at 3:18 a.m. After crossing over the Van Wyck Expressway, the SUV slammed into a concrete column that supports the AirTrain track above, said the Times Ledger. The SUV flipped over, sliding to a stop near a Long Island Rail Road employee parking lot. The vehicle then burst into flames, said the New York Police Department (NYPD).
None of the car’s occupants have been identified; however, the driver, a 45-year-old woman, was taken to Jamaica hospital with two male passengers, a boy, seven, and a 26-year-old man, said the Times Ledger. Three adult females all perished in the crash; their ages have not been released. Also, two children, an eight-year-old girl and nine-year-old boy, also died; all five were pronounced dead at the scene, said the NYPD.
“There were bodies all over the place in different positions,” said Victor Lopez, who was asleep at a friend’s house nearby; he was awakened by a loud crash and went outside to investigate the noise. “They were thrown out of the car,” he told the Times Ledger. According to Lopez, the only person wearing a seat belt was the driver, who was still in the SUV when the police and firefighters arrived. The remaining seven passengers were thrown when the vehicle landed on the driver’s side. “There was one body here, one there, one there,” he told the Times Ledger. “Man, there was a lot of blood.”
Atlantic Avenue curves south toward the expressway overpass, then dips down and then curves back north where the AirTrain column sits, a few feet from the street the Times Ledger explained. Some Long Island Rail Road employees the paper spoke to said that the intersection is known for being dangerous, and cars attempting to beat a yellow light can become airborne due to the road’s dip.
Friends and relatives at Jamaica Hospital told the Times Ledger that the family was en route home from a conference in Queens to benefit the Nigerian town of Arondizuogu. Larry Alisa, a conference member who came to the conference from Connecticut, said some of the SUV’s passengers were from New York; some were from out of state. “Everyone in the car was related one way or another,” he told the Times Ledger. “We are trying to find out exactly what happened. Right now it’s still kind of sketchy.”
Earlier this year, we wrote that an expert claimed that it was inadequate guardrails that led to the fatal Bronx Zoo crash that killed three generations of one family. The overpass, close to the Bronx Zoo, is known for serious accidents and, according to a New York Daily News report, evidence of neglect in this area goes as far back as the 1970s. Critics have argued that city and state officials, long aware of the problem, have not acted on the matter, even in the face of numerous deaths there.