The Taos County Sheriff's Office believes that country star Kylie Rae Harris was responsible for last week's fatal car accident that killed her and a 16-year-old girl, who has been identified as high school student Maria Elena Cruz. Her father, Pedro Cruz, is the deputy chief of the Taos County Fire District and was reportedly on the scene of the accident, though not as a first responder.
The three-vehicle crash occurred in northern New Mexico on Wednesday evening. In a statement, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said, "At this time I will say with most certainty that Miss Cruz was an innocent victim of this senseless crash caused by Ms. Harris."
Police are investigating speed and alcohol as possible contributing factors in the crash. The 30-year-old country singer was driving a 2017 Chevrolet Equinox when she crashed into the back of a Chevrolet Avalanche. She then collided with a 2008 Jeep driven by Cruz. Both were pronounced dead at the scene, while the third driver managed to escape injury.
"At this time I will say with most certainty that Miss Cruz was an innocent victim of this senseless crash caused by Ms. Harris," said Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe. https://t.co/oQXJmwk8cy— KSAT 12 (@ksatnews) September 6, 2019
In 2014, Harris reportedly received a speeding citation, and three years later, she was convicted of driving while intoxicated and ordered to install an ignition interlock device on her car. A few hours before the crash, Harris posted an ominous video to her Instagram Stories in which she recalled her father’s death, saying he used to drive on the same road.
"I've been driving for almost 12 hours and you would think that's so exhausting and boring but like, the last couple of hours driving through the mountains and remembering my place in the back seat as a little kid when my dad was making these treks here. Like, it was the f--king best," she said.
Harris’ mother, Betsy Cowan, told People that the singer struggled with drinking for years. She added that Harris may have just been tired, rather than under the influence, at the time of the accident, explaining that the singer had driven 11 or 12 hours that day and was emotionally exhausted. Her grandmother, aunt, and father all had ties to Taos and had all died.
Country singer Kylie Rae Harris died Wednesday night in a car crash in northern New Mexico. She was 30.— Dave Quinn (@NineDaves) September 6, 2019
Hours before her tragic death she posted this on her Instagram Story. I’ll warn you: It’s tough to watch back knowing what would happen to her next. pic.twitter.com/wz2rHyrxjF
Both Harris and Cruz's families have launched GoFundMe campaigns in the wake of their deaths. Nearly $40,000 of a $50,000 goal has been raised to benefit Harris' family and young daughter. The Cruz family is hoping to raise $15,000, while neighbors gathered Friday for a fundraising dinner to help with funeral costs.
Harris has released two albums and a self-titled EP, which debuted in March. She was in the northern New Mexico town to play the Big Barn Dance in Taos on Thursday.