16-year-old in fatal crash didn’t have learner’s permit, dad says
— The father of the 16-year-old Brooklyn teenager driving an SUV that crashed on New York’s Hutchinson River Parkway, killing him and four young relatives, said family members warned him not to drive without a license.
Malik Smith was asked by CBS whether he was aware his son, also named Malik, was driving without even a learner’s permit.
“Yeah, I was,” Smith said. “I told him, his mother told him, his older brothers told him, stop driving without a license, without a permit. Anything happens, you get pulled over, you get in trouble for these things. Stop doing this.”
Five youths died in the crash on the Hutchinson River Parkway in Scarsdale early Sunday, police said.
Westchester County police on Monday identified the victims as Anthony Billips, 17; Malik Smith, 16; Zahnyiah Cross, 12; Shawnell Cross 11; and Andrew Billips, 8.
The driver lived in East New York, Brooklyn, his father said. His cousins recently moved to Derby, Conn., authorities said.
Malik’s grandmother, Robin Smith, said her grandson was in the 11th grade.
“Malik, he liked to play basketball,” the teen’s grandmother said.
She said she last spoke with Malik last week.
“I didn’t know anything until yesterday morning when I got the call,” she said.
She said this is the second tragedy to strike the family in a week. Recently, one of her nephews died from leukemia.
“It’s too much right now in my head,” Smith said.
The crash remains under investigation.
Malik was driving north on the parkway when his Nissan Rogue veered off the parkway and smashed into a tree just north of the Mamaroneck Road exit, bursting into flames, Westchester County police said.
Only a 9-year-old boy survived. The driver was not speeding, police said.
The grieving father said the youths in the SUV were Malik’s cousins but as close as siblings. “They were more brothers. Brothers and sisters, that’s how close they are,” Smith told CBS.
They would often spend their days on the weekend at a local 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,” Smith said.
“I didn’t know he was driving by himself,” he added.
Under New York state law, drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from having more than one passenger unless the passengers are members of their immediate family or there is a passenger older than 21 in the vehicle.
In Connecticut, a 16-yearold is prohibited from driving with passengers under the age of 20 and with non-family members. Drivers under 18 also may not drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., unless it is for employment, school, religious activity or medical necessity.
The tragedy hit people hard on both sides of the New York/ Connecticut border.
“Terrible, heartbreaking news emerging of five Derby children lost in a crash in New York,” Connecticut state Rep. Kara Rochelle said on Facebook. “Please keep these children and their family in your prayers.”