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Mom drives van into Hudson, killing self, 3 kids

Mom drives van into Hudson, killing self, 3 kids

10-year-old manages to escape sinking vehicle

April 14th, 2011 in News

Angela Gilliam, aunt of Lashanda Armstrong, is comforted Wednesday after placing some balloons and stuffed animals near the boat ramp where Armstrong drove her car into the Hudson River in Newburgh, N.Y., on Tuesday night.

Photo by The Associated Press /News Tribune.

NEWBURGH, N.Y. (AP) - A woman upset with the father of her children packed her four youngsters into her minivan and drove into the frigid Hudson River, killing everyone except her 10-year-old son, who managed to roll down a window of the sinking vehicle and swim to shore.

The dead youngsters ranged in age from 11 months to 5 years.

A relative had called police Tuesday night to report a dispute at the home of Lashanda Armstrong, 25. Shortly afterward, she drove off a boat ramp several blocks away from her apartment in this struggling city 60 miles north of New York City.

Officials believe Lashaun Armstrong, 10, hit the button on a power window to escape from the driver's side as the minivan began to sink in the 45-degree water. Fire Chief Michael Vatter said the vehicle went under within two minutes.

"He got out of the car, got up onto the boat ramp, turned around and it was gone," Vatter said.

A passer-by found a soaked and cold Lashaun Armstrong along the shore and took him to a firehouse for help. The boy was so distraught that he had difficulty talking but ultimately told firefighters what happened, the fire chief said. Rescuers went immediately to the river.

Divers searched for about an hour before finding the minivan submerged in 10 feet of water about 25 yards from the shore. They used a tow truck to pull it up the ramp. Everyone inside was dead.

Killed along with Lashanda Armstrong were Landon Pierre, 5, Lance Pierre, 2, and 11-month-old Laianna Pierre, police said. Lashaun is staying with his mother's aunt Angela Gilliam and "doing fine," she said.

Armstrong appeared stressed-out when she picked up the children Tuesday at the Young and Unique Christian Development Child Care, said Shaniesha Strange, supervisor in the infant room.

"The only thing she'd say was that she was so alone," Strange said. "She's a single parent. She takes great care of her kids, goes to school and works. She really needed a helping hand."

Gilliam called Newburgh police on Tuesday night after getting a call from her brother. By the time police reached the apartment, Armstrong and her children were gone.

"She was a good mother. She was going through some stuff," Gilliam said. "Nobody knows what my niece went through." She would not elaborate.

Police said there was no history of domestic violence at the address.