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Cops: 7 dead after van plunges from parkway near Bronx Zoo

Police investigate the site of a crash that

Police investigate the site of a crash that killed seven people after the van they were riding in drove off an overpass on the Bronx River Parkway on Sunday. (April 29, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Seven people were killed on Sunday after the van they were riding in drove off an overpass on the Bronx River Parkway, landing in the Bronx Zoo's transit-storage yard, authorities said.

A New York Police Department spokeswoman said four adults and three children were confirmed dead in the 12:29 p.m. crash. Fire Department spokesman Jim Long said the victims were an 84-year-old man; three women, ages 80, 45 and 30; and three girls, ages 12, 10 and 7.

The NYPD tentatively identified the driver as a female adult from the Bronx. Police don't yet know how or whether the victims were related.

The vehicle was a white van, but it was damaged that investigators could not identify the make and model. It had a New York State license plate, the NYPD said.

Police said the van had been traveling on Bronx River Parkway southbound when it "shot right off road." The property the van fell into is a Bronx Zoo storage area for its monorail but it is also connected to a transit train yard, the NYPD said.

The area is secluded, full of brush, and there appeared to be no public access.

Police don't yet know the speed the van was traveling or whether the victims were wearing seatbelts.

The van, which had been traveling south on the parkway, bounced off the median, crossed the southbound lanes , then plunged over the rail, police said.

The van fell 50 to 60 feet, according to the fire department.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. issued a statement on Sunday about the crash.

"My prayers, as well as those of my office and all Bronxites, go out to the families of the seven victims of today's accident on the Bronx River Parkway. Our thoughts are with them as they try to grasp the horrific tragedy that has befallen them today," the statement read.

Diaz added that his office planned to investigate safety issues and improvements on the parkway, pointing out that Sunday's crash is the second time within a year that a car has plunged off the Bronx River Parkway.

In June, a sport-utility vehicle swerved off the parkway and fell 20 feet to the ground after its driver lost control, injuring the driver and his passenger.

Bronx Zoo officials did not immediately return calls for comment. The Bronx Zoo is the world's largest urban zoo and receives 2 million visitors per year.

-- With The Associated Press

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