A convertible carrying the grand marshal in Saturday's gay PrideFest parade struck and killed a man just as the event began in downtown Anchorage, police said.
Police late Saturday identified the victim as 50-year-old James L. Crump of Anchorage. Crump worked as a registered nurse for the city's Health and Human Services department and was walking in the annual parade, police said.
Police said the driver was Edith Bailey, 70, of Eagle River.
Grand Marshal Doug Frank said he was riding in the black convertible on Sixth Avenue near D Street when Bailey had trouble with the car's accelerator. It lurched forward, Frank said.
"It ran over a person, totally over," he said, sobbing. "This went from one of the best days of my life to the worst."
Police believe the 1971 Triumph Stag was traveling at a low speed when it struck Clump, said Lt. Dave Parker, a department spokesman.
Parade participants were told to walk close to the car, surrounding it, Frank said.
"It's a pure accident," Frank said. "(The driver) just panicked and kept hitting the accelerator and it kept jumping forward."
Crump was dragged underneath the car, Frank said.
Rescuers kneeling in the middle of Sixth Avenue between D and E streets tried to revive Crump with CPR. A heart defibrillator could be seen secured to his body. The rescue attempts failed. Someone soon placed a white sheet over the body.
The car did not belong to Frank or Bailey, Parker said. Vic Carlson, a spokesman for Idenity, Inc. -- one of the event's sponsors -- said he didn't know who the car belonged to or who asked Bailey to drive it.
The death shocked gay rights advocates on what was meant to be a day of celebration in Anchorage and across the country, following the passage of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in New York state. In Anchorage, the annual parade is part of a week-long celebration promoting equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Alaskans.
Before the accident, hundreds of jubilant parade watchers had lined Sixth Avenue.
The parade began at Sixth and D Street, and was to run through downtown to the Delaney Park Strip at 10th Avenue and L Street, where other festival events were scheduled. It still hadn't started at about 11:20 a.m. when master of ceremonies Daphne Doall LaChores told a confused crowd that the parade had been canceled.
The mood quickly turned somber as news spread of Crump's death.
By about 1:15 p.m., authorities had removed the body and reopened Sixth Avenue to traffic.
A medical examiner will make the final determination on the cause of death, but it appeared that injuries sustained in the accident killed the man, said Parker, the police spokesman.
"As I understand it, the vehicle hit him and continued a ways," Parker said.
Police also will be looking closely at any mechanical issues with the car, Parker said.
Later, as the festivities continued at the Park Strip, musicians played and festival goers danced. People chatted and some took turns riding a large mechanical bucking fish.
Eric Van Dongen signed up potential participants for his group Front Runners, a gay-friendly running group that meets Tuesday nights at Westchester Lagoon, he said.
The accident seemed to make for a more subdued PrideFest, Van Dongen said.
"It's definitely harder to get into it, just because it was such a tragedy," he said. "I think people are just a little more humble about being here. It can be kind of wild and festive, and I think people are just thankful that we are all together."
Note to readers: The initial versions of this story incorretly reported that the pedestrian killed in the parade was a woman. The person killed was a 50-year-old man, according to police.
Reporter Julia O'Malley contributed to this story.