White Plains, NY officials identify CT children killed in weekend crash

Published: Mar. 19, 2023 at 12:03 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 20, 2023 at 2:04 PM EDT
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SCARSDALE, NY (WFSB) - Five children, all from Derby, CT, were killed in a car crash in Scarsdale, NY on Sunday morning.

Public safety officials in White Plains, NY identified the victims as 16-year-old Malik Smith, 17-year-old Anthony Billips Jr., 12-year-old Zahnyiah Cross, 11-year-old Shawnell Cross, and 8-year-old Andrew Billips.

Officials from Westchester, NY said Smith drove on the Hutchinson River Parkway when he veered off the road, hit a boulder and crashed into a tree north of the Mamaroneck Road exit. The car then caught fire.

Five children died in the crash.

The only survivor was a 9-year-old boy who was taken by ambulance to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla. He had non-life-threatening injuries. Police said the 9-year-old was able to escape out the back because he was in the trunk of the vehicle.

All of the children involved in the crash were related, police said.

The crash happened around 12:20 a.m. and shut down the Hutchinson River Parkway for several hours. Police said the vehicle was a Nissan Rogue and no other vehicles were involved.

Channel 3 has been working with CBS New York, which spoke to the driver’s father, whose name is also Malik Smith. Smith told CBS that his son did not have a license or a learner’s permit. He said he told him repeatedly not to get behind the wheel.

“I told him, his mother told him, his older brothers told him stop driving without a license without no permit,” Malik Smith, the father, said. “Anything could happen. You could get pulled over, you could get in trouble for these things. ‘Stop doing it.’”

The father told CBS New York that his son was good in school, loved basketball, and loved his cousins. Every weekend, Malik Smith said his son traveled to Connecticut with his young cousins.

“Nice family, well-mannered children, respectful,” said Sarita Vargas of Derby.

Vargas owns a corner store up the road from where the five Derby children and teens were living.

Sarita said the family recently moved to Seventh Street. She was getting to know the young kids.

“Very heartbreaking. Children that come to my store every day so it’s very heartbreaking,” Vargas said.

Tanisha Crook lives nearby and remembers seeing the children hanging out near the bodega.

“I saw one of the boys come in one day with one of the siblings and he was so happy respectful smiling and when she said it was him it was heartbreaking,” Crook said.

Derby Mayor Richard Dziekan, a former police officer, stopped by the family home to check on anyone there today.

“It never gets easy. I’ve dealt with families like this before. Not this number of them before but it’s tough it’s really tough for the family,” said Dziekan.

The town clerk in Derby, Mark Garofalo, gave Channel 3 a statement.

“Please keep the families of these Derby children in your thoughts and prayers,” Garofalo said.

On Monday morning, the superintendent of Derby schools also issued a statement.

“Our thoughts go out to the family during this unimaginable tragedy,” said Dr. Matthew Conway, superintendent, Derby Public Schools.

Conway added that the family recently moved to Derby and had not yet registered with the school system.

The Connecticut Department of Children and Families said it recently interviewed the children after an incident that happened in New York:

Police are still investigating the crash.

They don’t believe Malik Smith was speeding.

“We’re less concerned about who to blame but more about understanding what happened,” said George Latimer, Westchester County Executive.

The families have set up a Gofundme.

Eyewitness News was told the family is having a ceremony Monday night in Brooklyn, New York where they’ll light candles and release balloons.

This is a developing story. Refresh the page for the most up-to-date information.