The 77-year-old driver who accidentally mowed down three fellow members of a Florida gay chorus group at a Pride parade has said he will hold the friend who died “in my heart forever.”
“This was a horrible accident and I offer my sincere regrets to all those who were impacted by this tragic event,” Fred Johnson Jr. said in a statement Monday after being identified as the driver in Saturday’s deadly mayhem in Fort Lauderdale.
Johnson, a local minister, had been behind the wheel of a white Dodge Ram pickup when he “accelerated unexpectedly,” killing James Fahy, 75, police said Monday.
Both men were members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, as were two others also injured — Jerry Vroegh, 57, who was discharged from a hospital Monday, and Gary Keating, 52, who was treated at the scene for minor injuries, police said.
“I love my Chorus family and the community and would never do anything to intentionally harm anyone,” Johnson Jr. said.
“Please know that I hold my fellow Chorus member, Jim Fahy, in my heart forever and offer my condolences to his friends and family,” he said in his statement.
Fort Lauderdale police reaffirmed Monday that “all available information and evidence indicates this was a terrible accident.”
Johnson had been driving the pickup because he has “ailments preventing him from walking the duration of the parade,” and he told cops later that his foot got jammed between the gas and brake pedals.
He has been cooperative and there was no evidence that drugs or alcohol were involved, police said.
“He’s just really, really beside himself,” Johnson Jr.’s friend and fellow chorus member Bradley Bush told The Associated Press.
“It’s going to be a burden that he’s going to carry the rest of his life.
“He’s an absolutely amazing person. He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” he insisted.
Bush described Fahy, who worked in the cruise industry, as a sweet and shy man who volunteered in the community and was incredibly dedicated to the chorus.
“We are a family,” said Bush. “You get close to them quickly because you’re on stage with them, you’re sharing weekly or more rehearsals.”
Johnson Jr.’s truck had also narrowly missed U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was seen crying at the scene.
Adding to the confusion, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis initially declared it a “terrorist attack against the LGBT community” — walking back those comments after police declared it an accident.
Asked Monday if he apologized for the remarks, he snapped, “The apology needs to come from the person who perpetrated this act, OK? You know, it’s not about Dean Trantalis. It’s about what really happened and we need to focus on that.”
With Post wires