FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WFLA/AP) — A member of a men’s chorus group unintentionally slammed into fellow chorists at the start of a Pride parade in South Florida Saturday evening, killing one member of the group and seriously injuring another, according to police.
A release from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department said the driver of the vehicle, a 77-year-old male, “was a participant who had ailments preventing him from walking the duration of the parade and was selected to drive as the lead vehicle.”
As the 2011 white Dodge Ram began to move forward from the staging area in anticipation of the start of the parade, police say the truck accelerated unexpectedly, hitting the two pedestrians.
After hitting the pedestrians, the police department said the driver continued across all lanes of traffic and ending up crashing into the fence of a business on the west side of NE 4th Avenue.
Police say the 77-year-old man remained at the scene and has been cooperative with investigators during the entire investigation. The driver showed no signs of impairment.
The driver and the victims were a part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus family, a small 25-member group of mostly older men.
Police say the pedestrians, two adult males, were taken to Broward Health Medical Center with serious injuries. One later died from his injuries and the second remains in the hospital but is expected to survive.
“This was not an attack on the LGBTQ community,” Chorus President Justin Knight said in a statement Sunday, calling it “an unfortunate accident.”
Dean Trantalis, who is Fort Lauderdale’s first openly gay mayor, initially told reporters the act was deliberate, adding to the confusion Saturday night.
“It terrorized me and all around me… I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away,” he said in a Twitter statement Sunday. “As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control.”
Photos and video from the scene showed Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in tears while in a convertible at the parade.
In a statement Saturday night, Wasserman Schultz said she was safe but “deeply shaken and devastated that a life was lost.”
“I am so heartbroken by what took place at this celebration,” she said. “May the memory of the life lost be for a blessing.”
While no arrests have been made the FLPD will continue to investigate this incident. The names of the involved parties will not be released at this time.
June is Pride Month, commemorating the June 1969 police raid targeting gay patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York that led to an uprising of LGBTQ Americans and served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement.