Officials say the Pride parade’s fatal crash appears unintentional


FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida >> At the start of a Pride parade in South Florida, a member of a male choir group accidentally rammed other choir members, killing one member of the group and seriously injuring another, the group’s director said today, to clarify initial speculation is a hate crime against the gay community.

Wilton Manors Vice Mayor Paul Rolli and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said early investigations revealed it was an accident. The driver was arrested, but it was unclear whether he was charged.

“Early investigations now suggest it was a tragic accident, but no one says what it is,” Rolli told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The driver and victims were part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus family, a small group of 25 mostly elderly men.

“Our Chorus colleagues were the injured and the driver is also part of the Chorus family. To my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community, “President Justin Knight said in a statement on Sunday, calling it” an unfortunate accident. “

Rolli was sitting on the float in front of the choir with the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, Dean Trantalis, and other city officials. Trantalis said the driver of a pickup truck suddenly accelerated when told he was next in the parade and crashed into the victims.

Rolli was on the other side of the car and did not see the crash, but immediately jumped off and ran to the victims. In the confusion it was unclear what happened.

“People were really desperate and some people were crying,” said Rolli, who explained that the crash occurred in an area where the wagons were lined up so there weren’t that many parade visitors. “I got calls from people I knew on the other end who were waiting for the parade and said, ‘Is that true? Is that true, do we have to worry? ‘ At this point you don’t know yet. “

Fort Lauderdale Police Detective Ali Adamson told reporters Saturday that authorities are investigating all possible collisions. The police did not respond immediately to additional questions about the investigation today.

Trantalis, the first openly gay mayor of Fort Lauderdale, initially told reporters the act was intentional, adding to the confusion on Saturday night.

“It terrorized me and everyone around me … I feared it might be deliberate based on what I saw meters away,” he said in a Twitter statement today. “As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture emerges of an accident in which a truck went out of control.”

Wilton Manors is a tightly knit community near Fort Lauderdale with a vibrant downtown full of cute shops where people line up for Rosie’s famous hamburgers or gossip and drink at Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar.

Photos and videos from the scene showed the US Democratic MP Debbie Wasserman Schultz tearfully in a convertible at the parade.

In a statement on Saturday evening, Wasserman Schultz said she was safe but “deeply shaken and devastated that a life was lost”.

“I am so sad about what happened at that celebration,” she said. “May the memory of the lost life be a blessing.”

A choir spokesman said the director refused to give interviews, adding that many members of the small group witnessed the fatal crash and were deeply shaken.

“The reason people are like Wilton Manors is because the whole community is one big family and that’s how we treat each other … and that really shook a lot of people,” Rolli said. “Even if it’s an accident, it’s just the loss of a life.”

June is Pride Month and commemorates the June 1969 police raid on gay guests at the Stonewall Inn in New York, which sparked an uprising by LGBTQ Americans and served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement.

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