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Deadly Florida Pride Parade crash appears unintentional, officials say

A member of a male choir accidentally punched his comrades during a pride parade in South Florida on Saturday, killing one in the group and seriously injuring another, authorities said.

Wilton Manors Deputy Mayor Paul Rolli and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said the first investigation showed it was an accident. The driver, 77, has been taken into custody, but police say no charges have been laid and an investigation is ongoing.

He was advancing in anticipation of the start of the parade when the vehicle unexpectedly accelerated, hitting the two, Fort Lauderdale police said in a press release. He cooperates with the police, who say drugs or alcohol are unlikely to be involved. No arrests were made.

The survivor is expected to recover, police said.

The “unfortunate accident” was first confirmed, along with the driver being a member of the 25-member Gay Men’s Chorus family, by President Justin Knight.

“Our fellow Chorus members were injured and the driver is also part of the Chorus family. To my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community,” Knight said in a statement sent to the Associated Press, dispelling initial speculation about a hate crime.

Flowers are found at the scene where a driver slammed into spectators at the start of a Saturday night pride parade, killing one man and seriously injuring another on Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Officials said the crash was an accident, but initially sparked speculation that it was a hate crime directed against the gay community. The conductor and the victims were all members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, who participated in the Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade.

Joey Spears, 25, told USA TODAY on Saturday that he was heading towards the start of the parade when he saw the truck driving through the crowd.

“All of a sudden I see this truck take off and go through people,” Spears said.

Spears captured a aftermath video that showed a person on the ground. Spears said he and the people he was with were cornered by police in the parking lot of a local high school for about an hour before being allowed to leave the area. It was then that they started to walk.

The Wilton Manors Pride event takes place every June, according to the event’s website. The city is a town in Broward County with a population of approximately 13,000, according to the US Census Bureau.

Trantalis, who is Fort Lauderdale’s first openly gay mayor, first told reporters the act was deliberate, adding to the confusion on Saturday night.

“It terrified me and everything around me… I was worried it might be intentional based on what I saw a few feet away,” he said in a statement on Twitter on Sunday. “As the facts continue to be gathered, an image emerges of an accident in which a truck lost control.”

Photos and video from the scene showed U.S. Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz in tears as she was in a convertible during the parade.

In a statement on Saturday evening, Wasserman Schultz said she was safe but “deeply shaken and devastated by the loss of a life”.

“I am so heartbroken by what happened at this celebration,” she said. “May the memory of the lost life be a blessing. “

A spokesperson for the choir said the director did not want to give interviews, adding that many of the small group witnessed the fatal crash and were deeply shaken.

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

Contribution: Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; Associated press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Florida Pride Parade Truck Crash Was Accident, Officials Say

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