Authorities are saying that an incident at a Florida Pride parade Saturday night which left one dead and another injured was an accident, and not a deliberate act.
On Saturday, a pickup truck that had been lined up for the parade’s procession suddenly accelerated, striking two people who were in attendance. Both victims were taken to a nearby hospital where one was pronounced dead. The other is expected to recover.
According to a release issued by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, the driver of the truck, a 77-year-old man, had ailments that prevented him from marching in the parade, and had been selected to drive the lead vehicle. As the parade began, the driver started the truck, which accelerated unexpectedly, striking the participants.
Gary Blocker, Chief of Police of Wilton Manors, where the incident occurred, said in a letter on Facebook that the event was “a tragic accident, and not a criminal act directed at anyone” following an investigation.
Police are not providing the names of parties involved while the case remains active, and until next of kin have been notified. The driver and both victims, however, were all members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. In a statement, chorus President Justin Knight said that “Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic accident that occurred when the Stonewall Pride Parade was just getting started. Our fellow Chorus members were those injured and the driver was also part of the Chorus family.”
Earlier reports from Saturday night speculated that the incident was a deliberate act. Fort Lauderdale mayor, Dean Trantalis — an eyewitness to the event — initially told local reports that he believed it was a deliberate attack on the LGBTQ+ community. However, in a subsequent statement, he acknowledged that it was an accident.
“I was an eyewitness to the horrifying event,” he said. “I reported what I saw to law enforcement and had strung 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.”
However, he added, “Law enforcement took what appeared obvious to me and others nearby and investigated further — as is their job.”