A driver who plowed into a Pride parade near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday, killing one person and critically injuring another, accidentally crashed into the crowd, officials said Sunday.
The incident occurred during the Stonewall Pride Parade in Wilton Manors, a neighborhood about 10 miles north of Fort Lauderdale. A driver in a white pickup truck lined up with other vehicles taking part in the parade and then suddenly accelerated, striking spectators, witnesses said.
Fort Lauderdale police said in a statement Sunday that the driver was a 77-year-old member of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus who “had ailments preventing him from walking the duration of the parade” and was selected to drive the lead vehicle.
“As the vehicle began to move forward in anticipation for the start of the parade, the vehicle accelerated unexpectedly, striking two pedestrians,” the statement read. “After striking the pedestrians, the driver continued across all lanes of traffic, ultimately crashing into the fence of a business on the westside of the street.”
The two people hit were also members of the Gay Men’s Chorus. Both victims were taken to the hospital, where one was pronounced dead and the other remained in critical but stable condition.
The driver was administered a DUI test on the scene, which he passed. Police said no arrests have been made, but they are not disclosing the names of either the driver or the victims due to the ongoing investigation.
Wilton Manors Vice Mayor Paul Rolli said Sunday: “The early investigation now indicates it looks like it was a tragic accident, but nobody’s saying finally what it is.”
Justin Knight, president of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, told The Daily Beast in a statement that despite initial claims the incident may have been deliberate “this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community.”
“Our fellow Chorus members were those injured and the driver was also a part of the Chorus family,” he said.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, who was at the event, earlier called the incident a “terrorist attack against the LGBT community.” He described how it all unfolded to WPLG Local 10 News.
“What we witnessed was, as we were beginning to assemble the parade, I was walking with Congressman Ted Deutch, and the parade had just begun, and we saw people lining up, ready to move, and all the sudden this white pickup truck dashed right through the crowd, barely missing Congresswoman [Debbie] Wasserman-Schultz’ car, by inches, and just… smashed through a gate, smashed into a landscaping company, and he hit two people,” Trantalis said.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) was shown in footage from the scene crying as she sat in a convertible that was taking part in the parade.
In a statement, Rep. Schultz said she was “deeply shaken and devastated that a life was lost and others seriously injured at tonight’s Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade.”
“We’re praying for the victims and their loved ones as law enforcement investigates, and I am providing them with whatever assistance I can. I am so heartbroken by what took place at this celebration,” she wrote.
Wilton Manors police confirmed on Twitter that the parade was canceled, while other events would continue. Wilton Manors Mayor Scott Newton said in a statement that the investigation is ongoing.