One person died and another was injured as the driver of the Pride parade and collided with the audience.
A member of a male choir group inadvertently involved a van toward fellow choristers at the start of a Pride parade in South Florida, killing one member of the group and seriously injuring another, according to the director of the group, which corrects initial speculation that it was a hate crime directed at the gay community.
The incident occurred at the start of the Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade parade and festival and an LGBTQ celebration in a town near Fort Lauderdale.
The white van lined up with other floats for the parade as it accelerated and collided with pedestrians before crashing into a plant nursery, Local 10 News said.
Wilton Manors Deputy Mayor Paul Rolli and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said Sunday that the first investigation shows it was an accident.
The 77-year-old driver was arrested, but police said no charges have been filed and the investigation continues.
“The first investigation now indicates that it looks like it was a tragic accident, but in the end no one says what it is,” Rolli told The Associated Press news agency in a telephone interview.
The driver and victims were part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus family, a group of 25 members mostly of older men.
“Our Chorus teammates were injured and the driver is also part of the Chorus family. To my knowledge, it was not an attack on the LGBTQ community, “President Justin Knight said in a statement Sunday, calling it” an unfortunate accident. “
Rolli was in the float in front of the heart truck along with Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, and other city officials in a rest area where the floats were being prepared.
Trantalis said the driver of a van suddenly accelerated when he was told he was next to the parade, crashing into the victims. The driver continued to cross all traffic lanes and eventually crashed into a fence across the street, police said.
“People were very distressed and some people were crying,” said Rolli, who explained that the accident happened in an area where the floats lined up, so there weren’t that many paradeers.
Fort Lauderdale police said no arrests have been made and that they are conducting a thorough investigation with the FBI, noting in a statement that “they are considering and evaluating all possibilities.”
Trantalis, who is the first openly gay mayor of Fort Lauderdale, initially told reporters the act was deliberate, which added to Saturday night’s confusion.
“It terrified me and everyone around me … I was afraid it might be intentional from what I saw a few feet away,” he said in a Twitter statement on Sunday.
“As the facts continue to gather, an image emerges of an accident in which a truck went out of control.”
Wilton Manors is a united community near Fort Lauderdale. Photographs and videos of the scene showed U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in tears as she was in a convertible at the parade.
In a statement Saturday night, Wasserman Schultz said she was safe, but “deeply shaken and devastated to lose a life.”
“I am so heartbroken by what took place at this celebration,” he said. “May the memory of the lost life be a blessing.”
June is Pride Month, commemorating a June 1969 riot that followed a police raid on gay patrons at New York’s Stonewall Inn. He was a catalyst for the gay rights movement.