Driver wasn't licensed in Sunday crash that killed 5 kids on the Hutchinson River Parkway

Five people, ages 8 to 17, who died in early Sunday's Hutchinson River Parkway crash were in an SUV driven by a 16-year-old who did not have a Connecticut or New York driver's license or permit, officials said Monday.

They are from Derby, Connecticut, according to a statement from the Westchester County Executive's Office that identified the five who died as driver Malik Smith, 16; Anthony Billips Jr., 17; Zahnyiah Cross, 12; Shawnell Cross, 11; and Andrew Billips, 8.

The one survivor, 9-year-old Abraham Billips, was taken to Westchester Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. He had apparently been riding in a rear hatchback/cargo area and escaped through the back of the vehicle, officials said.

County Executive George Latimer and Terrance Raynor, the acting Commissioner of Public Safety, give an update on the Hutchinson River Parkway deadly crash, March 20, 2023 in White Plains.
County Executive George Latimer and Terrance Raynor, the acting Commissioner of Public Safety, give an update on the Hutchinson River Parkway deadly crash, March 20, 2023 in White Plains.

Fatal Hutch crash: Five minors killed in crash off Hutchinson River Parkway in Scarsdale

"We grieve with the families that are involved," County Executive George Latimer said at a Monday news conference with Acting Public Safety Commissioner Terrance Raynor. "To lose a child at age 17, 16, 12, 11, 8 -- these are individuals who had their whole life ahead of them."

The 2021 Nissan Rogue SUV, traveling north, left the parkway north of the Mamaroneck Road exit in Scarsdale, struck a boulder and then a tree, Latimer said. At some point, the vehicle caught fire.

Officials do not believe speed was a factor. The posted limit was 55 mph.

No other vehicles were involved in the 12:20 a.m. crash on Sunday.

The road curves slightly to the left in the area and goes slightly downhill, and the accident investigation indicates the driver did not turn with the road, continued on a straight line, struck a boulder and then hit a tree.

Terrance Raynor, the acting Commissioner of Public Safety, and County Executive George Latimer give an update on the Hutchinson River Parkway deadly crash, March 20, 2023 in White Plains.
Terrance Raynor, the acting Commissioner of Public Safety, and County Executive George Latimer give an update on the Hutchinson River Parkway deadly crash, March 20, 2023 in White Plains.

Officials at Monday's news conference said one theory is whether driver distraction or the driver falling asleep might have played a role, but that hasn't been determined.

The vehicle was rented by a relative, Latimer said, and part of the investigation is how the 16-year-old driver had access to it.

The driver's family may have just relocated to Connecticut from New York City very recently.

It was not known from where the young people were traveling. Heading north, as the vehicle was, would have led into Connecticut, where the Hutchinson River Parkway becomes the Merritt Parkway. Derby is a city of more than 12,000 residents roughly 10 miles west of New Haven.

The crash remains under investigation.

Staff reporter Asher Stockler contributed to this story.

Michael P. McKinney is a breaking-news reporter for The Journal News, Poughkeepsie Journal and Times Herald-Record of Middletown.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Driver in Hutchinson crash that killed 5 had no license or permit