Teen Driver in Crash That Killed 5 Children Didn't Have License, Say Officials: 'A Horrific Accident'

A 16-year-old unlicensed driver was behind the wheel when an SUV veered off a New York highway and crashed into a tree, killing five young passengers, officials have said.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer gave new details about the crash at a media conference on Monday, saying three boys and two girls died from blunt force trauma on Sunday, about 12:20 a.m. local time.

The victims are Malik Smith, who was driving the car, and two pairs of siblings: Anthony Billips Jr., 17, and Andrew Billips, 8; and Zahnyiah Cross, 12, and Shawnell Cross, 11.

Abraham Billips, 9, survived the crash and his condition is not life-threatening. The child was riding in the hatchback area and managed to escape through the rear of the vehicle.

Latimer told media that Malik was driving a vehicle that had been rented by a family relative and it was not yet known how he had access to the 2021 Nissan Rogue SUV.

The 16-year-old did not have a driving license or permit, and Latimer said even if he did, he would not be able to legally drive at night at that age. State regulations would also require an adult to be present in the car for a 16-year-old to be driving.

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5 young family members killed in Scarsdale crash
5 young family members killed in Scarsdale crash

Eyewitness News ABC7NY/Youtube New York highway crash scene

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Investigators believe "the driver was either distracted or fell asleep," Latimer said. The stretch of Hutchinson River Parkway in Scarsdale where the crash occurred curves to the left and is slightly downhill.

He added that there were no tire marks on the road, which would have indicated sudden braking, and there were no marks on the grass, which would be present if the driver had tried to suddenly turn back onto the road.

Latimer said the driver did not turn with the curve of the two-lane road and went straight into a boulder and then into a tree before the SUV burst into flames.

Speed was not believed to be a factor, with an eyewitness telling investigators the car was not traveling faster than the 50 mph limit.

An autopsy on the driver and the front-seat passenger found the cause of death was blunt force trauma, authorities said. A toxicology report has not yet been completed.

The family had only recently moved from New York City to Derby, Connecticut, Latimer said, adding, "These are individuals who had their whole life ahead of them."

"This was a horrific accident, it was a horrific accident site," he told the media.

5 young family members killed in Scarsdale crash
5 young family members killed in Scarsdale crash

Eyewitness News ABC7NY/Youtube New York highway crash scene

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The driver's father, whose name is also Malik Smith, told CBS 2 that he was aware his son would sometimes drive despite not having a permit.

"Yeah, I was. And I told him, his mother told him, his older brothers told him, 'Stop driving without a license, without a permit. Anything happens, you get pulled over, you get in trouble for these things. Stop doing this,' " Smith said.

Matt Conway, the superintendent of schools in Derby, initially told the Associated Press the children were part of the same family, and he had reached out to the father to offer support.

"It's the unimaginable," he said. "Having to now make arrangements for five of your children to be buried is a very difficult thing for anyone — one child, never mind five that you're going to have to now make arrangements for."