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Death of a Family in Bronx Car Plunge Leaves Community Numb

THE BRONX — Juan Gonzalez came home to a community left numb by his unimaginable heartbreak Sunday.

Outside his Taylor Avenue home, dozens of neighbors crowded, a mass of mourners eager to support him in his pain.

"I do not want to be alive," he uttered through tears.

Gonzalez’ wife Maria, 45, and daughter Jocelyn, 9, were in an SUV headed to a family reunion when it plunged off the Bronx River Parkway into a remote section of the Bronx Zoo.

Alongside them was Maria’s sister Maria Nunez, 39, Gonzalez's nieces Niely, 7, and Marly, 3, and his parents-in-law, Jacob Nunez, 85, and Ana Julia Martinez, 81.

All seven died immediately.

"It makes you think about what's important everyday," said Nunez's neighbor Maurice Wallace.

"Forget the beef. Forget all of that, just live your life to the fullest."

Gonzalez was driving the family to her home at 634 Taylor Ave, in Soundview, for a Sunday reunion with her parents who had just arrived in the United States from the Dominican Republic for a month-long vacation in New York.

The Nunez family included 13 brothers and sisters, six of which lived in the United States. The others lived in the Dominican Republic along with parents Jacob and Ana Julia.

The elderly couple had only been to New York once before, right after three-year-old Marly was born, said family friend Iris Rivera, 55.

"They were incredibly kind and good-hearted people," she said.

At Jacobi Hospital, where the family’s bodies were taken, friends and relatives remembered them while trying to make sense of the tragedy.

"They were a very humble family," said Pedro Martinez, Gonzalez's uncle.

"They worked hard. She was a good mother."

"She was the best mother and a good wife," Gonzalez's cousin Marjorie Brito, 27, said.

Simon Torres, Nunez’s brother-in-law, said the two sisters were extremely close and even worked together as custodial staff at Fordham University.

"They were beautiful kids," Torres said of their children.

"When you lose a family like this, it's hard, it's crazy," he said from the home he shared with the Nunez family on Astor Avenue.

Neighbors described the family as extremely tight knit.

"They were a big family, always together," said Nunez's neighbor Naomi Velasquez, 28, as she stood on the fourth floor landing of the Pelham Parkway Houses

"We’re horrified."

Jose Fernandez, 42, who works with Juan at DAT Car Service and has known him for 15 years, said the Gonzalez family was known for its closeness.

"[They were] always together and working to raise their children," Fernandez said.

"He is a man who really loves his family. You see men that don't care, but he said just last week 'I spend more than $2,000 a month on my kids. I live for them.'"

Rosa Melo, who works the nearby Papa Antonio Roka Restaurant, said she’d gotten to know Maria Gonzalez over the years when she would stop by to buy sandwiches for her children.

"She was a wonderful mother, a worker, and great mother," she said.

"God must need an angel in the sky, because she was an angel."