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Bronx Parkway's Safety Questioned Following Deadly SUV Plummet

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One Bronx official is calling for closer scrutiny of the Bronx River Parkway following yesterday's horrific crash that killed seven members of the same family.

Police say a Honda Pilot traveling southbound struck the center barrier, careened across three lanes of traffic and launched over a four-foot high guardrail.

The sports utility vehicle then plunged nearly 60 feet into a private area of the Bronx Zoo.

All the passengers, including three children, died at the scene.

Jacob Nunez, 85, and Ana Julia Martinez, 81, were killed in the crash along with their daughters, Maria Nunez, 39, and Maria Gonzalez, 45, who was driving.

Gonzalez's daughter, Jazlyn, 10, also died along with Nunez's daughters, Naily Rosario, 7, and Maily Rosario, 3.

The family had been headed to Gonzalez's home on Taylor Avenue for a reunion.

A wake will be held for the victims Thursday at the R G Ortiz Funeral Home from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

A funeral service is set for Friday morning at St. Raymond's Church.

The grandparents will be buried in the Dominican Republic.

On Monday, neighbors rallied around relatives trying to cope with the devastating loss.

Gonzalez's son, Jonel, spoke to reporters Sunday evening and said he will always remember his mother as being a strong woman.

"She started working at Fordham University - not too long ago to provide for my schooling. She was a mother of three, a great wife. I'm sad she's gone. My sister went to St. Raymond's elementary. Her communion was this Saturday," Gonzalez said.

In a statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this tragic time."

Meanwhile, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz says changes must be made, including higher railings along the highway, but also says drivers need to be careful.

"We call on all of the motorists to slow down. Perhaps we have to do better on signage perhaps. Perhaps we have do better visibility with law enforcement. Perhaps we have to warn people or have certain graphics or paintings on the ground," Diaz said.

The borough president says he has reached out to the state Department of Transportation and other agencies about preventing future accidents.

Meanwhile, Sunday's crash was not the first along the stretch of the Bronx River Parkway.

Last June, an SUV heading northbound lost control, hit a divider and plunged 20 feet, landing on a pickup truck inside a parking lot below.

Both the driver and passenger survived.

In 2006, six people were killed in another crash at the same location.

That vehicle jumped the center divider and slammed into oncoming traffic.

Attorney Glenn Finley, who represented a survivor of that crash in a lawsuit against the city and state, says while the city replaced the center median four years ago, the ones along the edge of the roadway were not changed.

"That barrier is not even quite knee high, and the effect that a barrier like that has is when a tire is careening towards it and hits it, it's a wrap-up kind of effect that it has, and it causes a vehicle to go airborne," Finley noted.

Finley says state engineering inspection records from as far back as 2003 show the barriers were substandard.

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