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Funeral for Bronx River Parkway crash victims

May 4, 2012 3:21:01 PM PDT
Hundreds of people gathered in the Bronx Friday to bid a final farewell to three generations of one family. The seven family members were killed when their SUV plunged from the Bronx River Parkway on to the grounds of the Bronx Zoo.

Seven hearses - one for each of the victims - pulled up to the old brick church.

The hearses - two white and five black - arrived at the Church of St. Raymond, where 10 children in blue school uniforms stood in a straight line on the steps.

A white limousine covered in paper signs with the names of the dead also drove up to the church, located behind a small cemetery. Several Fordham University vans unloaded mourners. Two of the victims worked in the custodial department of the school.

The family has gone through "a nightmare of unimaginable frightening real proportions," Monsignor John Graham told the gathering.

Killed in Sunday's wreck were Jacob Nunez and Ana Julia Martinez, who were visiting from the Dominican Republic community of Manuel Bueno; their daughters, Maria Gonzalez and Maria Nunez, and three grandchildren.

The children were Jocelyn Gonzalez, 10, the daughter of the driver, and Niely Rosario, 7, and Marly Rosario, 3, both daughters of Nunez.

Police say Maria Gonzalez, the driver of the SUV, clipped a highway divider and damaged a tire before the vehicle flew off a highway and plummeted six stories into a ravine.

More than 1,000 mourners streamed into a Bronx funeral home Thursday to pay their respects at a wake for the victims. The line stretched down Unionport Road and around the corner onto Odell Street. The driver's son's fraternity has raised more than $110,000 for the family.

"It hurts a lot to know that I used to be friends with her, and now she's not here anymore," friend Chelsea Pererya said. "It's hard."

With so many dead, there were countless goodbyes to say. The line outside the Parkchester Funeral Home stretched for blocks and lasted for hours before the mourners finally reached the seven coffins inside.

"We're here today," one mourner said. "We don't know tomorrow."

Pereyra was a close friend to Jocelyn Gonzalez.

"We used to be at the same table together," she said. "It was very sad to know that she's not here with us anymore."

Jocelyn, who attended St. Raymond's elementary school, was to have received her First Communion this weekend.

"This is just a tragedy. Seven at one time. Three generations. No goodbye. It doesn't have to happen in your house to be a tragedy. We shed a few tears," said Direna Small, who lives nearby but did not know the family.

The little girls and their mothers were to be buried at St. Raymond Cemetery in the Bronx. The grandparents' bodies were to be returned to the Dominican Republic.

At the end of the Mass, Bishop Josu Iriondo walked down the steps from the altar and sprinkled the caskets with holy water and waved incense over them.

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