As relatives and friends struggled to come to grips with the devastating loss of seven family members in a Bronx crash, a police investigation concluded Monday their SUV was traveling 68 mph when it crashed into the highway median, damaging a tire and sending the vehicle skidding sideways across the roadway and over a guardrail.
A study of yaw marks on the parkway pavement, indicating sideways movement, led police to determine that the 2004 Honda Pilot's left-front tire struck the median on the Bronx River Parkway, causing the vehicle to travel laterally across three lanes of traffic before striking a curb and going airborne over a 4-foot metal fence, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. The speed limit on that stretch of road is 50 mph.
Oil was also found on the top of the fence, indicating the vehicle cleared it before flipping over as it plummeted 60 feet into a secluded area of the Bronx Zoo, Browne said.
It is still unclear what caused the SUV to strike the median and investigators haven't ruled out mechanical failure, Browne said.
Autopsies showed that all seven died from blunt force trauma, the medical examiner's office said, adding toxicology reports won't be completed for weeks. Police said they were all wearing seat belts.
Killed were driver Maria Nunez Gonzalez, 45, her daughter, Jazlyn, 10; her sister, Maria Nunez Rosario, 39, and Rosario's two daughters, Naily, 7, and Marlyn, 3, and her parents, Jacobo Nunez, 85, and Ana Julia Martinez, 81.
Oscar Morel, 14, a cousin to the three girls, said Nunez Gonzalez's three-bedroom apartment on Taylor Avenue in the Bronx was crammed with up to 25 people Monday.
Most were in tears, he said, "trying to make sense of what happened."
"It's just unbelievable," he said. "We're all crying, trying to make each other feel better."
Juan Gonzalez, the husband of Nunez Gonzalez, was inconsolable.
"I just lost the love of my life," he said.
In Jazlyn's bedroom, six women sobbed. Sitting on a neatly made bed, with toy stuffed puppies on a nearby shelf, a woman moaned, saying in Spanish, "Oh my mother, oh my father, oh my God."
Jacobo Nunez and Ana Julia Martinez had arrived Friday from their home in the Dominican Republic, and loved ones had planned a Sunday gathering to kick off their one-month stay in New York, family said. The occasion also would have celebrated the first Communion of Jazlyn this Saturday.
Nunez Gonzalez's son, Jonel, was supposed to have gone with his mother and sister to pick up their relatives on Sunday, said Rita Nunez, 38, a cousin of Nunez Rosario.
But she said his mother told him to stay home because they would only be gone 10 minutes.
"He's alive because he didn't go," Rita Nunez said. "She told him 'Stay, we'll be back soon' . . . and that was the last thing she said to her son."
A wake will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Ortiz Funeral Home, 2121 Westchester Ave., Bronx. The funeral Mass will be at 9:45 a.m. Friday at St. Raymond's Church, 1759 Castle Hill Ave., Bronx, family members said.
Tomato Tejada and Roman Jacques, vice consuls of the Dominican Consulate, said they are trying to expedite paperwork so Jacobo Nunez and Ana Julia Martinez could be buried in the Dominican Republic. They also said they were working on visas to help family in the Dominican Republic to travel to New York for the funerals.
With Kevin Deutsch
and Gary Dymski