FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - As a devastated community grapples with the aftermath of what police described as a tragic accident at a Pride parade in Fort Lauderdale, investigators have identified the driver and victims involved in the crash.
According to Fort Lauderdale Police, the driver was participating in Wilton Manors’ Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival when he lost control of his truck and plowed through the crowd at the beginning of the event’s twilight parade, along the 1700 block of Northeast Fourth Avenue, just before 6 p.m., Saturday.
Before the tragedy, all four men shared a very special bond.
The Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, a brotherhood, has been left shaken by this.
“I heard tires squealing and people yelling, ‘Hey, hey! Watch out! Look out!’”
Police say 77-year-old Fred Johnson lost control of a white pickup Saturday and hit two pedestrians, killing one of them, before careening into a nearby nursery.
It happened during the Stonewall Pride parade in Wilton Manors.
James Fahy, 75, would not survive.
Jerry Vroegh, 67, was rushed to the hospital but later released. And 68-year-old Gary Keating was not hit, but he was treated for minor injuries.
And all three, as well as the man behind the wheel, Johnson, are members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus.
“We are in shock. We’re in shock and still trying to process everything that happened,” said Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus president Justin Knight.
Johnson is also known as Father Fred, an Episcopal priest who served for a time at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hollywood.
He released the following statement Monday: “This was a horrible accident, and I offer my sincere regrets to all those who were impacted by this tragic event. I love my Chorus family and the community and would never do anything to intentionally harm anyone.”
“I have spoken with him. He is understandably upset and feels terrible about what happened in the accident,” Knight said.
Initially, speculation swirled that the crash might have been intentional.
This was fueled in part by Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, who within minutes of the incident called it a terrorist attack on the LGBTQ community.
At a vigil this weekend, he walked that back.
“I regret the fact that I said it was a terrorist attack because we found out that it was not,” Trantalis said.
Those who knew him remembered the man who lost his life, Fahy, as a sweet, kind gentleman with a large circle of friends.
“And he loved Christmas, and he was just a joy,” Knight said.
Fahy was a valued member of a family left hurting.
“For a lot of the members, this is not only a creative outlet. So many of us, of our members, have difficult or estranged situations with their family, and so we are their family,” Knight said.
Although the police department said the tragedy appears to be nothing more than an accident, they still want to speak with anyone who witnessed it as the investigation remains ongoing.
Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.