Three women and two children were killed early Sunday morning when a Mercedes Benz GL sport-utility vehicle they were travelling in crashed. The victims were returning from a festival in Queens celebrating a two-day annual convention of the Arondizuogu Patriotic Union National Congress of North America at the Golden Terrace banquet hall, on Atlantic Avenue less than a mile from the accident site. Three others survived.
The vehicle struck a concrete pillar, flipped and hit a tree. Three adult passengers, all women, were declared dead at the scene, as were an 8-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy. The driver, a 45-year-old woman, is in stable condition at Jamaica Hospital, along with a 26-year old male and a 7-year-old boy.
“The convention was supposed to bring us together — not end in tragedy,” said Anthony Nwankwo, 49, from Houston. The convention draws about 200 people from across the United States. One of the victims is identified as Michigan woman, Nnenna Obioha, who was in her 50s or older.
According to reports, the driver swerved to avoid a car coming through the intersection at Atlantic Avenue and the Van Wyck service road. The SUV climbed onto the sidewalk, struck a pillar supporting the tracks for the AirTrain to Kennedy International Airport and flipped onto its passenger side and then came to a rest when its roof struck a tree.
Surveillance video from a nearby gas station shows a fast-moving black SUV travel through an intersection. A moment later, a startled customer suddenly scurries toward the street.
Chief Stephen Browne of the Fire Department of New York called it the worst single car accident he had seen in his 26-year career. "To see this much human life devastation in a single-car accident on a side street is not normal," he told the News.