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1 Dead – South Florida gay pride march – people hit by truck in accident

Mayor says investigation “indicates it looks like it was a tragic accident.”

A South Florida pride parade marcher is dead and another injured after they were struck by a truck driven by another parade goer Saturday evening.

The incident, which authorities say is looking like an accident, took place at the Stonewall Pride Parade & Street Festival in Wilton Manors, just north of Fort Lauderdale, just as the festivities were starting.

The Ft. Lauderdale Police Department revealed Sunday that the driver of the truck was a 77-year-old man who was participating in the parade. The unidentified man had “ailments that prevented him from walking in the duration of the parade and was selected to drive as the lead vehicle,” the police said in a statement.

While the driver was waiting for the parade to start, the vehicle accelerated unexpectedly and struck the two unidentified people, the police said. The truck hit a nearby gate and came to a stop.

Both victims were taken to Broward Health Medical Center, where one was pronounced dead. Officials said the other man was expected to survive.

The driver and the two victims are all members of Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, according to investigators. The driver stayed on the scene and has been cooperating with investigators, police said,

A DUI investigation concluded no signs of impairment, according to investigators.

Wilton Manors Vice Mayor Paul Rolli told ABC News that “the early investigation now indicates it looks like it was a tragic accident, but nobody’s saying finally what it is.”

He stressed that the incident is still under investigation by the Ft. Lauderdale Police.

“Nobody’s making any final determination because there’s not enough information, but it doesn’t really look like it was intentional, from the circumstances,” Rolli said. “These things need to be investigated.”

The vehicle also narrowly missed hitting a convertible that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., was riding in, WPLG reported.

“I am deeply shaken and devastated that a life was lost and others seriously injured at tonight’s @WiltonManorsCty Stonewall #Pride Parade. My staff, volunteers and I are thankfully safe,” she wrote on Twitter.

An emotional Wasserman Schultz, who has represented the 23rd Congressional District since 2013, could be seen making calls and being consoled by staffers afterward.

“We’re praying for the victims and their loved ones as law enforcement investigates, and I am providing them with whatever assistance I can,” Wasserman Schultz added. “I am so heartbroken by what took place at this celebration. May the memory of the life lost be for a blessing.”

The parade was scheduled to start at 7 p.m., but the incident took place just beforehand. It was canceled after the crash, according to Wilton Manors police, though the festival continued.

ABC News’ Jon Haworth, Matt Foster, Will McDuffie, Ben Stein and Victor Oquendo contributed to this report.

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Black People – More likely to die in traffic accidents

Experts say this is not new. Even though Americans drove less in the pandemic. More Black people died in traffic deaths in 2020 than any other racial group.

Black people represented the largest increase in traffic deaths last year than any other racial group, even as Americans drove less overall due to the pandemic, according to recently released data.

An estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2020 — the largest projected number of deaths since 2007, according the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The number of Black people who died in such crashes was up 23 percent from 2019, the largest increase in traffic deaths among racial groups, according to the administration’s report.

Norman Garrick, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Connecticut, said the numbers are saddening, but not surprising.

“Black people tend to be overrepresented as walkers in this country,” Garrick said. “This is not by choice. In many cases, Black folks cannot afford motor vehicles. And people that walk in this country tend to experience a much, much higher rate of traffic fatality. We’re talking eight to 10 times more. It’s a perfect storm of a lot of horrible forces.”

This most likely represents yet another way the health crisis has had an outsize effect on Black people. Even in the early days of the pandemic, the National Safety Council found that the emptier roads were proving to be more deadly, with a 14 percent jump in roadway deaths per miles driven in March. And Black people are more likely to face traffic injuries in general; from 2010-2019, Black pedestrians were 82 percent more likely to be hit by drivers, according to a 2021 report from Smart Growth America, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group focused on urban development.

Calvin Gladney, president of Smart Growth America, said the pandemic has only exacerbated the longstanding problem. He said there are three major reasons Black people bear the brunt of roadway injuries: infrastructure, design and racism. Predominantly Black neighborhoods are less likely to have crosswalks, warning signs and other safety mechanisms, he said. And many high-speed highways are in or go through communities of color, thanks to a federal effort in the 1950s to modernize the nation’s roadways.

“These fatalities have been going upward for a decade,” Gladney said. “You go to Black and brown communities, you go to lower-income communities and you don’t see many sidewalks. You don’t see as many pedestrian crossings. The types of streets that go through Black and brown neighborhoods are like mini highways where the speed limit is 35 or 45. You see this disproportionately in Black and brown communities often because of race-based decisions of the past.”

Little to no infrastructure funding means those in Black neighborhoods live with poor roads, dangerous proximity to waste sites, little access to public transportation and more. Along with the systemic nature of this problem, Gladney pointed out that social racism also plays a role in the rising number of traffic fatalities. A 2017 study from the University of Nevada found that drivers are less likely to slow down or stop for Black pedestrians than they are for white ones.

Gladney said that efforts like President Joe Biden’s proposed $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, which includes efforts to make public transportation more accessible and improve road safety, are necessary, and that although the situation is dire “it’s fixable.”

He said small policy changes like lowering the speed limit in some areas could save hundreds of lives each year. Federal efforts like the 2021 Complete Streets Act — introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. — would ensure public roads are safe and accessible for multiple modes of travel.

“The pandemic illuminated issues that people have been ignoring,” Gladney added. “These are the same streets and the same roads that have always been there. If we have intentionality to get to racial equity and close the disparities, we actually can fix this.”

 

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Florida firefighting helicopter crashes during training exercise

Four people were on board at the time of the crash, officials said. One body was recovered Tuesday night.

LEESBURG, Fla. — A firefighting helicopter with four people on board crashed Tuesday near an airport in central Florida, killing at least one person, officials said.

The helicopter crashed into a marsh near Leesburg International Airport during a training exercise around 4 p.m. ET, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a news release.

One body was recovered Tuesday night and no survivors had been found, Leesburg Fire Rescue said in a Facebook post.

“The crash appears to be a total loss,” the post said.

Hours after the crash, rescue crews were still trying to get to the wreckage to see if there were any survivors, Leesburg police Lt. Joe Iozzi said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. Officials did not immediately release additional information.

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Biden asks intelligence agencies to ‘redouble’ efforts to determine coronavirus origins

Strory Credit: NBC News

 

The intelligence community has been unable to reach a “definitive conclusion” on whether the virus came from contact with an animal or from a laboratory accident, Biden said.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has asked the intelligence community to redouble its efforts to get to the bottom of the origins of the coronavirus, after new reports raised questions about whether it spread from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

The intelligence community has been unable to reach a “definitive conclusion” on the origins of the virus and is conflicted on whether it came from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident, Biden said in a statement.

“As of today, the U.S. intelligence community has ‘coalesced around two likely scenarios’ but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this question,” the president said.

He said he asked national security adviser Jake Sullivan in March to prepare a report for him on what was known about the origins of the virus. Biden said the findings, which he received earlier this month, concluded that while two elements of the intelligence community “lean” toward the explanation that the virus came from animal contact, another leans toward the laboratory explanation.

Biden said each assessment has “low or moderate confidence” and that “the majority of elements do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other.” He said he has asked for further investigation.

“I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days,” his statement said.

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House principal deputy press secretary, did not commit to making the new report public. She said she also could not share what specific questions Biden has for China and said that the administration was also not ready to commit to saying whether China would face any punishment depending on the review’s findings.

The president’s comments come after a U.S. intelligence report said three lab workers in Wuhan fell ill in November 2019, before the first coronavirus cases were reported, adding to circumstantial evidence for a hypothesis that the virus could have escaped from a lab in the city.

Biden also said he has directed his administration to seek further information from China.

“The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence,” his statement said.

Despite repeated questions from reporters, Jean-Pierre insisted Wednesday that nothing had changed internally to trigger the additional 90-day review.

“Nothing has changed,” she said. “This is just a continuation of what the president has been focused on.”

Top administration officials have been speaking out more strongly about the need for China and the World Health Organization to more fully cooperate in investigations over the virus’s origins after The Wall Street Journal was first to report on the lab workers who fell ill.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told a WHO ministerial meeting Tuesday that there must be a “transparent” follow-up probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Andy Slavitt, a senior White House adviser for Covid-19 response, said Tuesday that it is a “critical priority” for the U.S. to uncover the truth.

“It is our position that we need to get to the bottom of this, and we need a completely transparent process from China; we need the WHO to assist in that matter,” he said. “We don’t feel like we have that now.”

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Transit employees among 9 dead in shooting at San Jose rail yard

Stroy Credit: NBC News

A public transit employee, Samuel Cassidy, opened fire on co-workers at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority before taking his own life, officials said.

public transit employee opened fire on co-workers at a Northern California rail yard Wednesday, killing more than a half-dozen people before taking his own life, authorities said.

Calls of shots fired came about 6:34 a.m. PT near 100 W. Younger Ave. in downtown San Jose, drawing a large law enforcement response, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said.

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Law enforcement officers respond to the scene of a shooting at a Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) facility on May 26, 2021, in San Jose, Calif.Noah Berger / AP

The shooter was identified as Samuel Cassidy, an employee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), law enforcement sources said. He shot and killed himself at the scene, officials said.

Eight people were killed, not including the shooter, and one person was critically wounded, sheriff’s Deputy Russell Davis said.

The victims were identified Wednesday by the Medical Examiner-Coroner. Paul Delacruz Megia, 42, Taptejdeep Singh, 36, Adrian Balleza, 29, Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35, Timothy Michael Romo, 49, Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40, Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63, and Lars Kepler Lane, 63, were killed in the attack.

Samuel Cassidy was identified as the shooter who opened fire on co-workers at a Northern California rail yard.
Samuel Cassidy was identified as the shooter who opened fire on co-workers at a Northern California rail yard.Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority

The early morning attack came at a particularly busy time at the transit hub as overnight workers overlap with, and passed off their duties to, colleagues checking in for early-morning shifts.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said her deputies and San Jose police officers arrived quickly after the initial 911 calls.

“I know for sure that when the suspect knew that law enforcement was there, he took his own life,” Smith said.

“The deputy sheriffs … the officers from San Jose PD ran into the building when shots were being fired and I know that it saved many lives.”

Citing an “active shooter,” deputies told the public at 7:12 a.m. PT to steer clear of the neighborhood, about 50 miles south of downtown San Francisco.

“This is a horrific day for our city, and it is a tragic day for the VTA family, and our heart pains for the families and the co-workers because we know so many are feeling deeply this loss of their loved ones and their friends,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

Investigators found “several possible suspicious devices” on VTA property, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

The bomb squad responded to render the scene safe, and the FBI and ATF also responded. The sheriff’s office did not say if the items were bombs. Detectives were processing the scene Wednesday evening.

The dead suspect is believed to be the only shooter involved, according to officials.

“Public safety is assured at this point,” Davis said.

About the same time gunfire erupted at the VTA yard, San Jose firefighters rushed to a home about 10 miles away that was engulfed by flames, officials said.

That home, near 1100 Angmar Ct., is the suspect’s, law enforcement sources said. Investigators believe there was ammunition inside the home and firefighters smelled an accelerant when they arrived, sources said.

“We’re trying to figure out, exactly, if there’s a connection” between the fire and shooting, Davis said.

The Younger Avenue address is a light rail yard of the VTA, which provides bus, rail and shuttle services to the booming Bay Area suburb and technology hub.

Davis called the shooting scene a VTA “control center,” which is a “hub that stores multiple VTA trains and a maintenance yard as well.”

The shooting happened “on the VTA light rail yard but it did not happen in the operations control center,” VTA Board Chairman Glenn Hendricks said.