BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. — Authorities are trying to determine how a woman driving a minivan carrying two of her children and three young nieces got onto a suburban parkway heading in the wrong direction, leading to a fiery crash that killed eight people and left a 5-year-old boy severely injured.
The afternoon crash in which the 36-year-old mother, her daughter and nieces died was the second wrong-way crash on the Taconic State Parkway on Sunday. Police also are investigating how a driver in an earlier accident also ended up on the road going against traffic.
The crashes on the parkway north of New York City happened 20 miles apart.
The minivan involved in the fatal crash was traveling south in the northbound lanes when it hit an SUV and then careened into a third vehicle, said state police Investigator Joseph Becerra. The minivan rolled down an embankment and burst into flames.
The minivan’s front end appeared to have been almost entirely smashed in, and its shell was scorched and bent. Its driver and four of the five children inside it were killed, Becerra said. They were part of a family from Floral Park and West Babylon, on Long Island.
The children who died were girls ages 2, 5, 7 and 9. The fifth child, a boy, age 5, was hospitalized.
The minivan’s driver was the surviving child’s mother, and the other children were her daughters and nieces, Becerra said.
A witness to the fatal crash, Katrina Papha, who was traveling north on the parkway to a family barbecue in Mahopac, said she saw the accident in her rearview mirror.
“One car goes this way, one goes that way, up in the air, both of them,” she said. “I was crying. I was shaking.”
More information and a video report on this story are available on the AP News section of The Gazette’s home page.