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WILTON MANORS, FLA. - A night of celebration turned into a night of tragedy when, police said, a truck driver ran over two pedestrians at the beginning of the Stonewall Pride Parade in Fort Lauderdale, killing one of them and critically injuring the other.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis on Saturday night said police have apprehended the driver responsible for the crash at the festival, which is celebrated by Wilton Manors during Pride Month.
The twilight parade, themed “Out of the Darkness, Into the Light,” was scheduled to set off from Northeast 21st Court in Wilton Manors, but police said the crash took place in Fort Lauderdale, along the 1700 block of Northeast Fourth Avenue, just before 7 p.m., as the parade was getting started.
Trantalis said the driver of the truck acted like he was part of the parade. He said the motorist was on the parade route when he was was told to move up because he was next
t was at that moment when, Trantalis said, the driver accelerated, running over the victims.
“A white pickup truck came barreling across the parade,” he said.
A man who spoke with 7News said the incident unfolded right in front of him.
“I was behind the vehicle, and it revved up and just took off and struck people,” he said. “I went to try to help the one guy that was bleeding from the head. I rendered first aid; I did what I could. He was conscious, but he was in rough shape.”
Witness Stephanie Coleman said she was feet away from where the crash took place.
“We were waiting for the parade to begin, and all of a sudden there was a thud,” she said. “First thing we saw was lights. We saw the emergency vehicles approaching.”
Another witness said she was initially confused as to what had occurred.
“We heard all the cops rushing there, but we thought it was the start of the parade. We had no idea,” she said.
Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue officials said paramedics transported both victims to Broward Health Medical Center in critical condition.
Investigators said both victims are male but could not confirm their ages.
Trantalis said the driver attempted to flee but police officers caught up with him and took him into custody.
The mayor said one of the patients succumbed to his injuries. Fort Lauderdale Police later confirmed the death.
“You can’t go anywhere anymore without fear for your safety and fear for your life,” said Coleman. “It’s very, very sad.”
Several officials were in attendance when the incident occurred.
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony tweeted, “This tragedy took place within feet of me and my BSO team, and we are devastated having witnessed this horrific incident. I’m proud of all the BSO and local first responders who leaped into action, running into the unknown and instantly provided care for the victims. Our prayers are with the victims and their families. Be sure to hug the ones you love tonight.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., was one of the public officials who took part in the event and was reportedly near the crash.
The lawmaker addressed the crash in a series of tweets. She wrote, “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. May the memory of the life lost be for a blessing.”
Trantalis described the crash as a deliberate attack on the LGBTQ community.
“This community will come together. Our allies, members of this community want to see justice happen here, and we know it will,” he said.
However, police have not confirmed whether or not the driver crashed on purpose.
“This investigation is active, and we are considering and evaluation all possibilities,” said a Fort Lauderdale Police spokesperson.
People who were at the parade were shocked by what happened.
“It’s tragic. Hopefully, God willing, it’s not what I thought, my first thought and my first reaction,” said Lisa Izquierdo, who said she heard the crash.
In a statement issued to 7News late Saturday night, Justin Knight, president of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, said the victims were chorus members, and the driver was “part of the Chorus family.” He does not believe it was an attack on the LGBTQ community.
“The Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the Wilton Manors Police Department, we send our deepest condolences to the families, to the victims, to the participants, everyone affected by this incident,” said the Fort Lauderdale Police spokesperson.
Wilton Manors Mayor Scott Newton issued a statement that reads in part, “A tragic incident occurred at today’s Stonewall event … A thorough investigation is being conducted.”
Broward County Mayor Steve Geller issued a statement that reads, “This tragedy overshadows all of the joyous events taking place in most every city in Broward County for LBGTQIA+ Month and Juneteenth. I’m saddened that in our County, which is diverse and welcoming to all people, that something like this could happen.”
Police said they are questioning the driver. They have not released his identity.
The FBI is also investigating.
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