New details today after a mother in New York drove her minivan off of a boat ramp into the Hudson River, killing herself and three of her young children. A fourth child managed to escape the sinking vehicle.
It all began Tuesday evening when police were called to the house of 25-year-old Lashanda Armstrong in Newburgh, about 60 miles north of New York City. There were reports of a domestic dispute. But by the time police got there, Armstrong was on her way to the river.
Police say she drove off of the ramp and into the water. Two boys, ages five and two, and a daughter, 11 months, drowned along with their mother.
“From what we’ve gathered so far it was Miss Armstrong’s intention to drive the car into the water,” Newburgh police chief Michael Ferrara said at a news conference on Wednesday.
When the van hit the river, she told her terrified kids, “You’re going to die with me,” according to WNBC. Lashaun quickly sprang into action.
First, he frantically began fiddling with the knobs and buttons on his door. “He was looking for the doorknob but managed to push the button for the power window before the electricity went out,” said Fire Chief Michael Vatter. But the window that opened was on the driver’s side — forcing the tenacious child to climb over his murderous mother — whose last words to him reportedly were, “I made a mistake.”
He wriggled out the window just before the van went under. Lashaun fought the current and managed to swim about 25 feet to the shore. “He got up onto the boat ramp, turned around, and [the van] was gone,” Vatter said.
Cops said it took only two minutes for it to sink. A driver, spotted the drenched, trembling boy on the side of the road and drove him to a nearby fire station.
“He just kept repeating over and over, the car was in the water with his mom and siblings.” Cops say the little boy said that right before she put the kids in the van, his mother fought with his stepfather, Jean Pierre, 26, father of the kids who died. She accused him of cheating on her.
As they sped toward the river, the boy said, his mom called her own mother from the van and told her, “I’m doing something crazy.” Minutes later, they hit the water and she uttered her awful farewell to her family. As Lashaun swam away, he turned and saw her one last time — and heard her admit her “mistake.”
The car was submerged when emergency crews arrived at the ramp. “If that child had not escaped that car this would still be a missing person’s inquiry,” Ferrara said.
Divers found the car 25 feet from shore, eight feet beneath the murky water. This is reminiscent of the case of a South Carolina woman who drowned her young sons in 1994.
Susan Smith is serving a life sentence for killing 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex by strapping them into their car seats and driving the car into a pond. Smith originally claimed she was carjacked before the truth came out.
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