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Police identify driver, victims in Wilton Manors Pride crash

Driver says it was ‘a horrible accident’

The driver and victims were all members of the the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. Police are calling it "a terrible accident.”

WILTON MANORS, Fla. – The man who ran over two members of his chorus group with a pickup truck at the Stonewall Pride Parade on Saturday has been identified as Fred Johnson Jr., 77, of Oakland Park, police said Monday evening. Johnson released a statement saying it was “a horrible accident.”

James Fahy, 75, of Fort Lauderdale, was killed and Jerry Vroegh, 67, of Fort Lauderdale, was injured in what investigators also believe “was a terrible accident.”

Vroegh was released from Broward Health Medical Center on Monday.

All three were members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus.

The chorus’ founding director Gary Keating, 69, of Oakland Park, was treated for minor injuries Saturday after being nicked by the 2011 white Dodge Ram, according to Fort Lauderdale police and a spokesman for the chorus.

Shortly after being identified as the driver by Fort Lauderdale police, Johnson released a statement, saying: “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. Please know that I hold my fellow Chorus member, Jim Fahy, in my heart forever and offer my condolences to his friends and family.”

The Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus released this photo of Fred Johnson Jr., who was driving the pickup truck that ran over two members of his chorus at the start of the Stonewall Pride Parade on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus)

The chorus spokesman said Johnson is distraught over the crash.

Justin Knight, president of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, said Fahy was a longtime member of the group.

“It is with much regret that we confirm that Chorus member Jim Fahy was killed in the tragic accident which happened during the start of the Stonewall Pride Parade,” Knight said in a statement Monday. “He was a longtime, valued member of our Chorus family and he will be deeply missed. We wish a speedy recovery for Chorus member Jerry Vroegh who was injured at the accident. We thank everyone for their concern, compassion and support.”

James Fahy was killed in Saturday night's crash near the start of the Stonewall Pride Parade in Wilton Manors. (Courtesy of Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus)

Fort Lauderdale police said Sunday that Johnson had ailments that prevented him from walking in the parade, so he was selected to drive the lead vehicle.

Police said the white pickup truck accelerated unexpectedly as it moved forward in anticipation of the start of the parade, striking Fahy and Vroegh. It narrowly missed colliding with a convertible that had U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz inside.

That led many to say they believed it looked like an intentional attack, including Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, who witnessed the crash and initially called it a “terrorist attack.” Trantalis has since said that he regrets calling it that.

Johnson was quickly detained after the pickup truck crashed through a nearby garden center. Detectives said a DUI test was conducted and that he showed no signs of impairment.

Johnson has been cooperating with investigators, police said.

While detectives say that the evidence and information available point to an accident, their probe into the incident is still active. Anyone who witnessed the crash and has not yet spoken to investigators is asked to call traffic homicide investigator Paul Williams at 954-828-5755.

Jerry Vroegh, 67, of Fort Lauderdale, was injured in the crash at the start of the Stonewall Pride Parade in Wilton Manors. (Photo courtesy of Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus)
Gary Keating, 69, of Oakland Park, was treated for minor injuries Saturday after being nicked by a pickup truck at the Stonewall Pride Parade in Wilton Manors. (Photo courtesy of Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus)

About the Authors:

Andrew Perez is a South Florida native who joined the Local 10 News team in May 2014.

David Selig is the Digital Executive Producer at WPLG, overseeing Local10.com.