Da’Shawna Cross / GoFundMe

Five children from the ages of 8 to 17 died in a tragic car accident on the Hutchinson River Parkway in Scarsdale, NY. A tweet from CBS New York reporter Tony Aiello identified the children as Anthony Billips Jr., 17, Malik Smith Jr., 16, Zahniyah Cross, 12, Shawnell Cross, 11, and Andrew Billips, 8. One nine-year-old boy was the sole survivor. He was in the hatchback of the car at the time of the crash and managed to crawl through the back with minor injuries. 

Malik Smith Jr. was identified as the driver of the car and was the cousin of the five other children who were his passengers. The car was a 2021 Nissan Rogue SUV, reported as rented by one of the children’s family members. Authorities stated they believed that Smith fell asleep or was distracted and drove straight off the curve. “A 2021 Nissan Rogue SUV was traveling northbound, apparently at normal highway speed, when vehicle veered off the highway, struck a boulder, struck a tree. The vehicle then caught fire,” reported Westchester County Executive George Latimer. The vehicle crashed at 12:20 am early Sunday, March 19, 2023. 

It was revealed that Smith did not have a permit or driver’s license. Smith’s father, Malik Smith Sr., stated that his son was in the habit of picking up his cousins and going to the mall. “That’s his thing. He goes to the mall. He goes to get his ice cream with his cousin. They go to the movies. They walk around the mall. They do what teenagers and kids do, you know. So that’s, it’s just, I didn’t know he was driving by himself,” he said. CBS 2’s Lisa Rozner pressed the father on why his son was out so late with young children and without a license. When pressed whether he knew that his son was driving “in general,” Smith responded, “Yeah, I was. And I told him, his mother told him, his older brothers told him to stop driving without a license, without a permit. Anything happens, you get pulled over, and you get in trouble for these things. Stop doing this.” 

A woman who appears to be related to at least two of the children shared her devastation about the loss on Facebook. “Lord Jesus I don’t understand why you had to take our babies from us, please give us the strength, Lord God, these kids didn’t deserve this. Like why is this happening,” she wrote, sharing pictures and videos of the children. Her post was filled with condolences on the loss. There continues to be an investigation, and a toxicology report is pending.   

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