Authorities investigating why SUV plunged off highway, killing 7

(CBS News) NEW YORK - Authorities are trying to find out why an SUV drove off a highway, over a guardrail, and landed upside-down inside the grounds of the famous Bronx Zoo.

All seven people in the vehicle were killed.

The accident happened shortly after noon Sunday. Police say an SUV carrying seven people, all from the same family, bounced off the median of the Bronx River Parkway, crossed three lanes of traffic, flew over the guardrail and plummeted 100 feet.

The SUV landed in a wooded area of the Bronx Zoo that is never open to the public, and far from any animal exhibits.

Authorities say when they found the SUV, it was crushed.

"Units arrived on the scene, and they found a vehicle upside-down, with occupants inside the vehicle," said Ronald Werner of the New York Fire Department.

CBS Station WCBS reports the victims have been identified as 85-year-old Jacob Nunez and 81-year-old Ana Julia Martinez, their daughters, Maria Gonzalez, 45 (the driver), and Maria Nunez, 39; and three grandchildren: Niely Rosario, 7; Jocelyn Gonzalez, 20; and Marly Rosario, 3. All were pronounced dead at the scene.

"The injuries were quite horrific," said the FDNY's Howard Sickles. "In 30 years, I've seen something like this once or twice. Everybody was taken aback by it."

No one on the ground was hurt.

Police and firefighters say the SUV's speed may have been a factor. They're still trying to determine what caused the driver to lose control.

Investigators will also look at whether the guardrail was too low to keep the SUV from going over the edge.

Skid marks and a scraped concrete barrier mark the spot where an SUV carrying seven occupants plunged off the highway to a wooded area below, Sunday April 29, 2012, in New York.
AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano

To see Terrell Brown's report, click on the video in the player above.