Family of seven dies as van plunges into zoo

AN out-of-control SUV sped across several lanes of flyover traffic, then plunged more than 50ft into a ravine in the grounds of New York's Bronx Zoo, killing all seven people aboard -- three generations of one family from the Dominican Republic -- including three children.

The Honda Pilot apparently flipped over a 4ft iron fence before landing upside down at America's largest city zoo. The cause of the crash was unclear, although a city official said the guardrail's height would be one of the safety issues investigated.

The SUV was heading south on the Bronx River Parkway when it bounced off the central reservation, crossed three south-bound lanes and hit the kerb, causing the vehicle to become airborne, continue over the guardrail and plunge 59ft.

"Obviously, the vehicle was travelling at a high rate of speed," New York Fire Department deputy chief Ronald Werner said.

The SUV landed in a wooded area on the edge of zoo property that was closed to the public and far from any animal exhibits, zoo spokeswoman Mary Dixon said. The mangled vehicle lay there hours later, its doors ripped off and strewn amid the trees along with items from the car.

"I've been in the fire department 30 years," Mr Werner said. "Sometimes you come upon events that are horrific and this is one of them."