Derby kids killed in fiery crash remembered; officials release new crash details

The kids were in a Nissan Rogue at the time when the driver, 16-year-old Malik Smith, either fell asleep or got distracted, according to Westchester County Executive George Latimer. Latimer said Smith did not have a driver’s license or a permit.

Marissa Alter

Mar 20, 2023, 6:51 PM

Updated 393 days ago

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Westchester County officials released new details Monday about the fiery crash on the Hutchinson River Parkway that killed five children from Derby over the weekend. The victims and a sixth child in the vehicle, the lone survivor, were all related.
It happened on the northbound side of the parkway just north of the Mamaroneck Road exit in Scarsdale, New York, around 12:20 a.m. Sunday. The kids were in a Nissan Rogue at the time when the driver, 16-year-old Malik Smith, either fell asleep or got distracted, according to Westchester County Executive George Latimer. Latimer said Smith did not have a driver’s license or a permit.
“The road curves slightly to the left and goes slightly downhill,” Latimer explained. “The driver did not turn with the roadway, continued in a straight line, hit a boulder, and then hit a tree head on, and the car was engulfed in flames.”
Smith died, along with 17-year-old Anthony Billips, Jr., 12-year-old Zahnyiah Cross, 11-year-old Shawnell Cross and 8-year-old Andrew Billips. They were all seated in the front and back of the vehicle. Abraham Billips, 9, was in the way back of the SUV and managed to escape with minor injuries, Latimer said. He went to the hospital for treatment, but officials did not have an update on his condition or whether he’d been released.
“The rear window had been shattered, which is—it’s an SUV, so it has the lift gate in the back, and he made his way out the window,” said Westchester County Public Safety Commissioner Terrance Raynor.
Raynor said a Westchester County police officer was first on the scene and tried to put out the fire with an extinguisher he had but couldn’t. The Scarsdale Fire Department arrived immediately after and were able to put out the fire.
The crash occurred while the kids were on their way home. They’d recently moved to Connecticut from New York.
“Once they said, 'Derby kids' and from 'New York,' my heart just dropped like immediately. I felt in my heart, like, it was them,” said Sarita Vargas, getting emotional. Vargas owns the bodega up the street from the family’s home. She said the children came in daily and made quite an impact on her despite being new to the neighborhood.
“Always loving, always helping each other. And I know they were always together. They were just—I say they were my kids. Like every day, every day they would come—ice cream, soda, whatever it is, but they stuck together,” Vargas told News 12. “So kind and so respectful.”
“Respectful,” echoed Gloria Taveras, who lives above the bodega. “Yes sir, no ma’am, like very, very respectful. For their ages, it was something that made it stand out. Like, wow.”
On Monday morning, Derby’s mayor arrived at the family’s home to offer any help the city could.
“We're a small community. So, when one person hurts, everybody hurts and when people need help, we come together,” said Marc Garofalo, Derby’s town clerk. Garofalo told News 12 he was working Sunday when he learned the news and immediately sent an email out to city and legislative leaders. The superintendent reached out to the family and learned the kids had not been enrolled in Derby schools yet.
“The primary message at this point is just to respect their privacy and ask everyone for their prayers and thoughts and give them a chance to absorb this inexplicable tragedy,” Garofalo said. “Our hearts go out, and you know, we stand ready to help in any way that makes sense to them at the appropriate time.”
The SUV involved had been rented by a relative of Smith’s, according to Latimer. He also said the area where the crash occurred is not one that sees frequent issues. All five victims died from blunt force trauma, according to Latimer, who said investigators couldn’t tell yet if the kids were wearing seatbelts.
As officials continue to try to get answers, Latimer said they are grieving with the family.
“To lose a child at 17, at 16, 12, 11, 8—these are individuals who had their whole life ahead of them. So many things that have been denied them,” Latimer said.
A GoFundMe effort has been started to help the victim’s family members pay for their funerals.  


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