Five people, including two children, were killed early Sunday morning when a black 2008 Mercedes-Benz SUV hit a concrete post in Queens, rolled and burst into flames.
The sport utility vehicle was carrying eight people and traveling on Atlantic Avenue in Jamaica, just east of the Van Wyck Expressway, when it hit the concrete stanchion about 3:18 a.m., NYPD officials said. It landed on its passenger side before bursting into flames.
The five were pronounced dead at the scene, including a girl, 8, and a boy, 9, as well as three women, authorities said. A police spokesman said Sunday that some of the occupants were thrown from the vehicle.
New York City firefighters at the crash scene had used extraction tools to cut some victims from the vehicle, officials said.
A family member identified one of the women as Nnenna Obioha, a Michigan resident.
"Nnenna is my cousin, my best friend, my everything," said a grieving Evelyn Anyaogu, 68, of the Bronx. "This is tragic, very tragic."
Police Sunday night would not confirm that Obioha was among the victims. A spokesman also declined to list the ages of the women killed.
Obioha was a founder of Arondizuogu Daughters Association USA, a group that seeks to improve conditions in Arondizuogu, Nigeria, her cousin said.
Anyaogu, Obioha and others had gathered during the weekend at a conference at the Doubletree Hotel in Queens to socialize and discuss ways to fund projects in their home country.
Anyaogu said Obioha had been headed for the Bronx and planned to go next to the airport to fly back to Michigan.
"Why wasn't our heavenly God there to protect this family? How did this happen?" asked a man, Inno Chima, who identified himself as a friend of the family. He was outside Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where the survivors received treatment. "We are really heartbroken."
The driver, a 45-year-old woman, was taken to the hospital with a boy, 7, and a man, 26, police said.
A hospital spokeswoman, Joann Ariola, said Sunday night the man was treated and released, the boy was in stable condition and the driver was in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
Police said no other vehicles were involved in the crash. The spokesman said there were "no indications" of drug or alcohol use. Another spokesman would not say whether the driver had been speeding. Police have not identified the victims or confirmed that they are related.
The local Nigerian community is in anguish. "Nobody is coping," Anyaogu said. "How do you cope? It is not one death. It's two, three, four, five."
With Emily Ngo