The crash that killed a member of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus at the start of Saturday’s Pride Parade in Wilton Manors was an apparent accident caused by a 77-year-old man, who himself, was a member of the chorus.
All signs currently point to a tragic and unfortunate incident, but Fort Lauderdale Police Department stated they will continue to investigate.
Initially when the crash occurred Dean Trantalis, the gay mayor of Fort Lauderdale, told Local 10 News it was “a terrorist attack against the LGBT community.” Those statements have now been met with broad community criticism.
On Sunday he appeared to reverse himself in a Facebook post.
“I was an eyewitness to the horrifying events. It terrorized me and all around me. I reported what I saw to law enforcement and had strong concerns about what transpired — concerns for the safety of my community. I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away,” he wrote. “Law enforcement took what appeared obvious to me and others nearby and investigated further — as is their job. As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control. My heart breaks for all impacted by this tragedy.”
According to the FLPD one victim was killed while another victim is at Broward Health Medical Center and is “expected to survive.”
“From the beginning, everything I personally saw and heard led me to believe it was a horribly tragic accident and not a terrorist attack. Out of an abundance of caution, and to allow for a proper investigation, the City of Wilton Manors exercised restraint in its communication,” said Wilton Manors City Commissioner Chris Caputo. “I am both incredibly sad about yesterday’s heartbreaking accident as well as the fact that some people spread inaccurate information sending fear throughout the community.”
FLPD stated the driver had “ailments” that prevented him from walking the duration of the parade and so he was instead selected to drive the lead vehicle.
“As the vehicle began to move forward in anticipation for the start of the parade, the vehicle accelerated unexpectedly, striking two pedestrians,” a statement from the FLPD read. “After striking the pedestrians, the driver continued across all lanes of traffic, ultimately crashing into the fence of a business on the west side of the street.”
The driver showed no signs of impairment. No names have been released yet.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic accident that occurred when the Stonewall Pride Parade was just getting started,” said Justin Knight, the president of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. “Our fellow Chorus members were those injured and the driver was also a part of the Chorus family. To my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community. We anticipate more details to follow and ask for the community's love and support.”
The incident occurred in the 1700 block of Northeast 4th Avenue, in Fort Lauderdale and the driver was driving a 2011 white Dodge Ram.
“My heart goes out to the victims of last evening's tragic event at our city’s Stonewall Pride Parade. The police have done a thorough investigation and concluded the incident was a horrible accident,” said Wilton Manors City Commissioner Mike Bracchi, “This was not an attack on our city or the LGBTQ+ community. Many thanks to all first responders who assisted during the incident.”
A vigil is scheduled Sunday, June 20 at 6 p.m. at Sunshine Cathedral. Participating organizations include Stonewall Pride and The Pride Center at Equality Park. For more information visit Sunshine Cathedral’s Facebook page for updates.
Click here to read SFGN’s initial reporting.