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Concrete Wall to Rise at Site of Bronx River Parkway Crash

A van with seven members of the same family inside lost control and plunged off the Bronx River Parkway, killing all of the passengers, April 29, 2012.
A van with seven members of the same family inside lost control and plunged off the Bronx River Parkway, killing all of the passengers, April 29, 2012.
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New York Daily News

THE BRONX — Concrete barriers and reduced speed limits are among the safety measures being added to a dangerous stretch of the Bronx River Parkway where seven family members died in a car crash Sunday. 

State Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday they've begun the process of adding new barriers to the outer lane of the parkway, while also lowering speed limits to 35 mph from its current 40 mph in an effort to increase safety on the stretch.

“The New York State Department of Transportation shares community concerns about the safety of the Bronx River Parkway in the wake of the tragic crash that claimed the lives of seven family members on April 29," state DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said in a written statement. 

McDonald said the department will install concrete barriers along the outer travel lane on both the northbound and southbound lanes over the viaduct at the Bronx Zoo, as well as two other similarly constructed viaducts south that cross over East Tremont Avenue and the Amtrak lines.

"Additionally, DOT crews will be installing signage and will be striping the approaches and decking of the three BRP viaducts in question," she said. 

While the changes are put in place, drivers will be warned they are entering a construction zone and will be told to reduce their speed. The department is working with the NYPD to enforce the new driving rules. 

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz thanked the department for quickly addressing issues on the roadway where sisters Maria Nunez, 39, and Maria Gonzalez, 45, Gonzalez’s daughter Jocelyn, 9, Nunez’s daughters Marlyn, 3, and Niely, 7, and the children's grandparents Jacob Nunez, 85, and Ana Julia Martinez, 81, died Sunday.

The site was the scene of at least two prior fatal incidents.

In 2006, six people were killed at the same location when their car jumped the divider and slammed into oncoming traffic in the southbound lane.

Last June, another accident on the Bronx River Parkway near the zoo caused an SUV to fall more than 20 feet into a parking lot after hitting a divider. No one died in that accident.

"We must do everything we can to avoid a similar tragedy in the future, and this announcement is an important first step towards the goal of an improved Bronx River Parkway that is safer for drivers and the community alike," Diaz said in a statement.

In the meantime, community members have rallied to raise at least $125,000 over the past three days to pay for the victim’s burial and funeral costs. 

Members of Lambda Upsilon Lambda, surviving son Jonel Gonzalez’s fraternity at Pace University, collected nearly $80,00 in donations by midday Wednesday, according to its online fundraising site, and a drive formed by the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers had raised at least $50,000, according to Fernando Mateo, president of the organization. 

Mateo said the group organized the drive to help Gonzalez’s husband Juan, who works as a livery cab driver.

Part of the funds were raised through an anonymous donation of $10,000, and $7,000 was provided to the family by Univision X96.3 radio personality Luis Jimenez. It was intended to transport the grandparents’ for burial in their native Dominican Republic, Mateo said. 

“We met with the families and made a commitment that we were going to allow them to grieve as a family as we handle the fundraising,” Mateo said of the fund.

“This way they can worry about their sorrow and we can worry about them getting a decent burial.” 

Although family members said they cannot imagine Gonzalez was driving over the speed limit, law enforcement officials said speed played a role in the accident, the New York Post reported.  

“The accident happened because [the driver] lost control, and once she lost control, speed played a factor as to why she couldn’t regain it,” the official told The Post.

The family plans to hold a wake at the Ortiz Funeral Home at 2121 Westchester Ave. on Thursday, between 4 and 9 p.m. 

Donations can be made by calling the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers at 917-688-1648 or by calling Chase Manhattan bank directly and referencing “Disaster on the Bronx River 7 Deaths” and account number 3011987533. 

To make a donation through Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, visit the group's website: https://www.wepay.com/donations/159168.%20.