New details revealed, questions remain about deadly Hutch crash
New information has been released, yet many questions remain, into the deadly crash on the Hutchinson River Parkway that claimed five young lives.
Investigators say there's still a lot they don't know, and they are trying to figure out what led to the fatal crash that took the lives of two sets of siblings.
Officials released the names Monday of the five young people killed in the crash that occurred around 12:20 a.m. between exits 12 and 13, north of the Mamaroneck Road exit.
They are Andrew Billips, 8, Shawnell Cross, 11, Zahnyiah Cross, 12, Malik Smith, 16, and Anthony Billips Jr., 17. Investigators say the family had recently moved to Derby, Connecticut, from the New York City area, roughly 50 miles north of where the crash occurred.
A 9-year-old boy, Abraham Billips, was the lone survivor. He was riding in the rear hatchback cargo area and was able to escape the burning car by crawling out the back of the vehicle. He suffered injuries not considered life-threatening.
In a news conference Monday, Westchester County George Latimer said 16-year-old driver, Malik Smith, did not have a driver's permit or license in either New York or Connecticut. He also said that Nissan Rogue SUV was a rental from a relative. Police say even with a license, by law, he was still too young to drive without an adult passenger or at night.
Latimer said there was no indication that the vehicle had slowed around a curve in the road before leaving the roadway, striking a boulder, then a tree and bursting into flames. He also said that speed was not a factor and an eyewitness said that he was traveling the limit (55 mph). Investigators are looking into whether Smith was either distracted or fell asleep at the wheel.
It is not clear if Smith or the passenger were wearing seat belts or exactly where they were coming from. Latimer said an unverified report had them returning from a family function in New Jersey.
He also said that the relationships between those inside the vehicle were not immediately clear but did include at least two sets of siblings.
The juveniles were not enrolled at any Connecticut school. Smith had been enrolled at a Brooklyn high school, Latimer said.
"This was a horrific accident. This was a horrific accident site," said Latimer. "We grieve with the families involved. These were individuals that had their whole life ahead of them."
Latimer said he hopes more details will come to light in the next 48 hours.
Police do say that while figuring out exactly what happened is the focus right now, they are looking into how Smith had access to the rental car. Criminal charges may be filed depending upon the outcome of the investigation.
The Connecticut Department of Children and Families released the following statement:
"This is an unspeakable tragedy, and our thoughts are with the family, friends, neighbors and others within the community who knew these children and are now grieving their loss and the trauma they experienced. We are currently reviewing our interactions with the involved families.
We can confirm that at the end of last month, we were asked by our counterparts in New York Child Protective Services to perform a "courtesy visit" to interview the children based on an alleged incident that occurred in New York.
Upon the request, and because the children were located in Connecticut at the time, we assisted New York CPS and reported back to our colleagues accordingly. There was nothing learned in the interviews which warranted further Connecticut DCF involvement.
Our Department adheres to confidentiality under state statute 17a-28 and federal law and due to the pending investigation into this incident, we are unable to comment further on this matter."