The crash, which happened around 12:20 a.m. on Sunday, March 19 on the northbound Hutchinson River Parkway in Scarsdale directly north of the Mamaroneck Road exit, killed four boys and one girl from Derby, Connecticut, located near New Haven, according to Westchester County Police.
The vehicle, a 2021 Nissan Rogue SUV that had been rented by a relative of one of the juveniles, had been driven by 16-year-old Malik Smith, who did not possess a learner's permit or driver's license from Connecticut or New York and was one of the children who died in the crash, according to Westchester County Executive George Latimer.
Latimer added that even if Smith had a permit or license, due to his young age, he would still not be able to legally drive at night and would have to have an adult with him according to New York state law.
On Monday, March 20, the Westchester County Executive's Office identified the other four victims as:
- Anthony Billips, Jr., age 17;
- Zahnyiah Cross, age 16;
- Shawnell Cross, age 11;
- Andrew Billips, age 8.
From the investigation into the crash, authorities currently believe that speed was not a factor in the crash. Instead, it is believed that Smith was either distracted or fell asleep at the wheel, which caused him not to steer when the road began to curve and instead continue in a straight line, Latimer said.
The vehicle then struck a boulder before hitting a tree head-on, causing the vehicle to become engulfed in a fire.
The only survivor of the accident, identified as 9-year-old Abraham Billips, had been riding in the rear hatchback/cargo area of the vehicle when it crashed. He was able to escape the car when the rear windshield shattered and was found by first responders, who took him to Westchester County Medical Center for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, Latimer said.
It is not yet known if Billips has been released from the hospital yet.
The cause of death for the five other occupants of the vehicle was confirmed to be blunt force trauma by the Westchester County Medical Examiner's Office.
No other vehicles were involved in the crash, according to county officials.
"This was a horrific accident," Latimer said on Monday, adding, "We grieve with the families that are involved. To lose a child…these are individuals who had their whole life ahead of them."
Latimer said that part of the investigation will be finding out how similar accidents can be prevented in the future.
The investigation into the crash, which is being conducted by the Westchester County Police Accident Investigation Team and is still ongoing, may become criminal in nature if anything criminal is discovered, according to Westchester County Public Safety Commissioner Terrance Raynor.
Raynor added that the lone survivor of the crash, Billips, has not yet been interviewed by authorities in relation to the investigation.
This continues to be a developing story. Check back to Daily Voice for updates.
Click here to follow Daily Voice Clarkstown and receive free news updates.