New details are emerging about the tragic accident that claimed the lives of singer-songwriter, Kylie Rae Harris, and a 16-year-old girl. Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe confirms to Yahoo Entertainment that Harris, 30, is considered to be responsible for the fatal three-car collision. (The third driver was unharmed.) Maria Elena Cruz, a Taos High School sophomore, has been identified as the teenager killed.
"At this time I will say with most certainty that Miss Cruz was an innocent victim of this senseless crash caused by Ms. Harris," Sheriff Hogrefe tells Yahoo Entertainment in a statement.
Speed appears to be a contributing factor in the collision while alcohol is suspected. Investigators are waiting on a toxicology report from the Office of the Medical Investigator. "As you know this is a non-chargeable case due to death of the at fault person (Harris) so the toxicology report is likely to be several months up to a year because of no urgency for criminal charges," Sheriff Hogrefe notes.
Sheriff Hogrefe told local paper Taos News that evidence at the crash scene indicated alcohol may have been involved, though he declined to provide specifics. Harris had a prior DWI conviction in Collin County, Tex. in 2017, according to the paper. Records showed that Harris had been court ordered to install an ignition interlock device on her vehicle.
Harris’s mother Betsy Cowan told People that alcohol was something her daughter “struggled with on-and-off over the years.” She didn’t want to get into specifics “out of respect to both families.”
The Sheriff’s Office says the musician was driving south on State Road 522 toward Taos, N.M. in a 2017 black Chevrolet Equinox when she clipped the back of a black Chevrolet Avalanche. Harris’s vehicle was launched into the northbound lane, causing a head on collision with a white 2008 Jeep driven by Cruz. Both of them died at the scene.
Taos residents are in mourning as the Cruz family is a beloved member of the community. Maria Cruz's father, Deputy Chief Pedro Cruz, is a Taos County Firefighter and EMT.
"This is truly a terrible tragedy that has affected all parties involved. There are no words that can express how much this tragedy has affected the family of Maria Elena as well as the community. At this time we are asking for privacy for the family," Taos County fire manager Mike Cordova told People. The department is accepting donations for the family at the Taos County Fire and EMS office. A funeral will be held on Sept. 10.
"Maria was a loving and caring person who was taken from her family and friends’ way too soon," her obituary reads. "She will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved her."
Harris's publicist confirmed news of the musician’s passing on Thursday. "Everyone that knew Kylie knew how much she loved her family and, beyond that, how much she loved music," the statement said. "The best tribute to her unmatched enthusiasm for both is to spread as much love as you can today, and listen to music that fully inspires you."
Harris, whose self-titled EP was released in March, is survived by her 6-year-old daughter.
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