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Seven die as car plunges into zoo

An out-of-control SUV sped across several lanes of flyover traffic, then plunged more than 50ft into a ravine in the grounds of New York's Bronx Zoo, killing all seven people aboard, including three children.

The Honda Pilot vehicle apparently flipped over a 4ft iron fence before landing upside down at America's largest city zoo. The cause of the crash was unclear and police had not said how fast the SUV was travelling.

A city official said the guard rail's height would be one of the safety issues investigated.

Police identified the dead adults as Jacob Nunez, 85, and Ana Julia Martinez, 81, both from the Dominican Republic, and their daughters Maria Gonzalez, 45, and Maria Nunez, 39, and three grandchildren. Police say Ms Gonzalez was driving.

The children were Ms Gonzalez's daughter Jocelyn, 10, and Ms Nunez's daughters Niely Rosario, seven, and Marly Rosario, three.

The SUV was heading south on the Bronx River Parkway that cuts through a working-class neighbourhood when it bounced off the central reservation, crossed three south-bound lanes and hit the kerb, causing the vehicle to become airborne, continue over the guard rail and plunge 59ft, police said.

"Obviously, the vehicle was travelling at a high rate of speed," New York Fire Department deputy chief Ronald Werner said. "It hit something that caused it to become airborne."

The SUV landed in a wooded area on the edge of zoo property that was closed to the public and far from any animal exhibits, zoo spokeswoman Mary Dixon said. The mangled vehicle lay there hours later, its doors ripped off and strewn amid the trees along with items from the car.

It was not clear what caused the SUV to go out of control at around 12.30pm on Sunday.

The accident was the second in the past year where a car fell off the same stretch of the Bronx River Parkway. Last June, the driver of an SUV heading north lost control and the SUV hit a divider, bounced through two lanes of traffic and fell 20ft over a guard rail, landing on a pick-up truck in a car park. The two people in the SUV were injured.

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