Mayor says truck was part of parade in Wilton Manors when it suddenly accelerated and nearly hit local congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Staff and agencies
Sat 19 Jun 2021 22.44 EDT
A man has died after a truck driver hit spectators at the start of a Pride parade in South Florida on Saturday, seriously injuring another, authorities said.
Fort Lauderdale mayor Dean Trantalis said the pickup truck driver appeared to be part of the Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride parade but then suddenly accelerated when he was told he was next, crashing into the victims, according to WSVN-TV.
Trantalis said he believed it to be a deliberate attack. Justin Knight, the president of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, whose logo the suspect wore on his t-shirt, said that to his knowledge it was a “tragic accident” and not an attack on the LGBTQ community. The suspect was “part of the Chorus family” and the injured were members, he told local media.
Fort Lauderdale police detective Ali Adamson said authorities were investigating “all possibilities”, with the help of the FBI but did not say whether they believed the incident was intentional.
Officers are speaking to the driver. It is unclear whether he has been charged. Wilton Manors police tweeted that the public was not in danger.
Trantalis said the vehicle came within inches of Democratic US representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was in a convertible at the parade.
“The parade had just begun and we saw people lining up and ready to move and all of a sudden this white pickup truck dashed right through the crowd, barely missing congresswoman Wasserman Schultz’s car by inches and smashed through a gate,” he said.
In a statement, Wasserman Schultz said she was safe but “deeply shaken and devastated that a life was lost”. “I am so heartbroken by what took place at this celebration,” she said. “May the memory of the life lost be for a blessing.”
Scott Newton, the mayor of Wilton Manors, which lies just north of Fort Lauderdale, said: “Out of respect for everyone involved, the parade has been canceled and a thorough investigation is being conducted.”
Broward County sheriff Gregory Tony said in a statement. “Though authorities are still gathering information, we know two individuals marching to celebrate inclusion and equality were struck by a vehicle. This tragedy took place within feet of me and my team, and we are devastated having witnessed this horrific incident.”
Spectator Christina Currie told the South Florida SunSentinel. “All of a sudden there was a loud revving of a truck and a crash through a fence … It was definitely an intentional act right across the lanes of traffic.”
Photos and video from the scene showeWasserman Schultz in tears at the scene. A spokesperson for Wasserman Schultz did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
June is Pride Month, commemorating the June 1969 police raid targeting gay patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York that led to an uprising of LGBTQ Americans and served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement.
With Associated Press
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