A teen driver without a driver’s license or learner’s permit was distracted or fell asleep behind the wheel of an SUV that crashed and caught fire on New York’s Hutchinson River Parkway, killing him and four underage family members, authorities said Thursday. Monday.
There were no supervising adults in, near or behind the Connecticut-bound Nissan Rogue that crashed into a rock, struck a tree and caught fire on the Westchester County Avenue just after midnight Sunday, authorities said.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said the driver appeared to be having trouble taking a turn.
“We do not believe speed was a factor in this accident,” Latimer told reporters. “It is a road that curves a lot. It curves to the left and then goes downhill. The driver did not turn with the road and continued in a straight line.
Driver Malik Smith, 16, and passengers Anthony Billips, 17, Zahnyiah Cross, 12, Shawnell Cross, 11, and Andrew Billips, 8, died in the single-car crash.
Only a 9-year-old boy who was riding in the rear cargo area of the pickup survived, authorities said. He escaped out the back of the vehicle and was taken to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla with non-life-threatening injuries.
Latimer knows the way well.
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“It’s a path that I’m personally familiar with,” Latimer said. “In fact, I drove down that same road two hours before the accident.”
The Westchester County Police Accident Investigation Team and detectives from the county’s General Investigations Unit are investigating the accident.
“This was a horrible accident,” Latimer said. “It was a horrible crash site.”
Police said the group had been at a mall or a family gathering and was on its way to their homes in Connecticut.
Latimer said the vehicle was a rental.
Authorities said the five children were from Connecticut and had just moved into a community there. School officials in Derby, Connecticut, said the boys and girls had not yet enrolled in their new schools.
“It’s unimaginable,” said Matt Conway, superintendent of schools in Derby. “Having to make arrangements now for five of your children to be buried is a very difficult thing for anyone – one child, never mind five that you will have to make arrangements for now.”