Tragedy aborted the Stonewall Pride Parade in Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale Saturday, when a parade participant drove a Dodge Ram pickup truck into two people by “accident,” killing one, Fort Lauderdale police said.
“As the vehicle began to move forward in anticipation for the start of the parade, the vehicle accelerated unexpectedly,” Fort Lauderdale police Det. Ali Adamson said Sunday afternoon. “The driver remained on scene and has been cooperative with investigators for the duration of the investigation. A DUI investigation of the driver was conducted on scene and showed no signs of impairment.”
Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus president Justin Knight emailed a statement to some media outlets, including WPLG-Channel 10, stating “This was not an attack on the LGBTQ community.”
The statement said the pickup truck driver, as well as the people injured, were “part of the Chorus family.”
Fort Lauderdale police said the 77-year-old driver was physically unable to walk the parade route, so was picked to drive the lead truck. The Dodge Ram sat in the staging area, in the 1600 block of Northeast Fourth Avenue.
“As the vehicle began to move forward in anticipation for the start of the parade, the vehicle accelerated unexpectedly, striking two pedestrians,” Adamson wrote. “After striking the pedestrians, the driver continued across all lanes of traffic, ultimately crashing into the fence of a business on the west side of the street.”
Adamson said both men struck were taken to Broward Health Medical Center. One man was declared dead at Broward Health, the other man is expected to survive.
‘I feared it could be intentional...’
Though minutes after the crash Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis told several media outlets “This was an terrorist attack on the LGBTQ community,” he explained and retracted that analysis Sunday afternoon.
“I was an eyewitness to the horrifying events. It terrorized me and all around me,” Trentalis said in a statement. “I reported what I saw to law enforcement and had strong concerns about what transpired — concerns for the safety of my community. I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away.
“Law enforcement took what appeared obvious to me and others nearby and investigated further — as is their job,” his statement continued. “As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control.
“My heart breaks for all impacted by this tragedy.”
Police did not release the names of the people involved. Procedure dictates notifying a deceased person’s next of kin before releasing a name. Also, the investigation in the crash isn’t finished.
The parade had started around 7 p.m. near Northeast 21st Court in Wilton Manors, but the truck hit the pedestrians in Fort Lauderdale.
“This tragedy took place within feet of me and my (Broward Sheriff’s Office) team, and we are devastated having witnessed this horrific incident,” Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said in a Saturday night statement. “I’m proud of all the BSO and local first responders who leaped into action, running into the unknown and instantly provided care for the victims.”
The rest of the parade was canceled, but festival events continued.
This is a developing story and will be updated when more information is available.