FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – One man is dead and another injured after a driver plowed his white pickup truck through the crowd at the start of an LGBTQ Pride parade Saturday night. The question remains: was it a deliberate act or a terrible accident?
The authorities did not say that on Sunday.
Fort Lauderdale Police and the FBI are investigating the fatal crash that interrupted the start of the Wilton Manors Stonewall Parade and festival at around 7 p.m. on Saturday.
The police did not disclose the names of the driver and the men he met. Both victims were taken to Broward Health Medical Center, where one later died.
The driver was wearing a Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus T-shirt and had a large flag of pride on his truck. All three men were members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, said Justin Knight, the group’s president.
The group posted a message on Facebook Sunday morning: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic death and injuries that occurred as a result of an unfortunate accident at the start of the Stonewall Pride Parade. While the Chorus family mourns together, we thank the community for their love and understanding. “
Knight, who was not in the parade, declined to comment on Sunday, a spokesman said.
Michael Albetta, a Fort Lauderdale resident and regional director of the Florida LGBTQ Democratic Caucus, saw it all firsthand.
Albetta led the parade alongside Mayor Dean Trantalis and Congressman Ted Deutch, D-Fla.
“I was about 30 feet away when this vehicle sped past me,” he said. “He must have done 50 mph. All I saw were corpses blown up. A man is lying on the floor with blood all over it. And I saw the truck get that guy through the fence. It was terrible.”
Albetta, seeing the police handcuff the driver and put him in a patrol car, refused to speculate about the driver’s intent.
“I don’t know what I don’t know,” he said. “I only know what I saw. There was a hiss and a bump. Those were the corpses he hit. I was just trying to get people out of the way. Everyone was shocked. It’s something you see on TV, not in person. It was a very ugly, surreal moment. “
Trantalis witnessed the event and told reporters on Saturday night that he believed the man drove through the crowd on purpose.
Trantalis released a statement saying he was wrong.
“Last night, as we began a celebration of pride for the LGBT community and commemoration of our hard-won victories for equality, our community faced the worst tragedy,” he said. “The grief of the LGBT community – and the Fort Lauderdale area as a whole – is palpable.
“I was an eyewitness to the terrible events. It terrorized me and everything around me. I reported what I saw to law enforcement and was very concerned about the incident – concerns about the safety of my community. I feared it might be deliberate based on what I saw just yards away.
“Law enforcement took what seemed obvious to me and others nearby and investigated it further – as is their job. As the facts continue to be compiled, a picture emerges of an accident in which a truck went out of control. As a result, one man died, two others were injured, and the lives of two congressmen were in danger. My heart breaks for everyone who is affected by this tragedy. “
The driver came just inches from a convertible that was supposed to drive Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz through a parade route starting in Fort Lauderdale and going through Wilton Manors, the gay-friendly city in the north.
Wasserman Schultz was seen crying minutes after the incident when she was comforted by Deutch.
Wilton Manors Mayor Scott Newton released a statement of support on Sunday: “I would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased victim – and our continuing thoughts and prayers to the other victim who was struck by this tragic event. We are deeply grateful to the first responders, who took care of the victims quickly and conscientiously and carried out a thorough investigation. “
Albetta was grateful that the incident wasn’t any worse.
“Until the FBI finishes their investigation, we don’t know if it was an accident,” he said. “Now there is all this speculation. Everyone is playing detective now. Let the real detectives do their job and tell us what really happened.
“When I put my key in my door last night, I was so grateful to be home and happy and safe. You have read about it elsewhere. You never think it will happen in your hometown. “
© 2021 South Florida Sun Watch. Visit sun-sentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Copyright 2021 Tribune Content Agency.