10-Year-Old Boy Escaped Mom’s Murder-Suicide in the Hudson River

Angela Gilliam, left, aunt of Lashanda Armstrong, and three unidentified women, place balloons, stuffed animals and candles near the boat ramp Wednesday, April 13, 2011 where Armstrong drove her car into the river in Newburgh, N.Y. Armstrong, who had just been involved in a domestic dispute, loaded her four children into a minivan Tuesday night and drove into the Hudson River, police said. Lashaun Armstrong, 10, escaped from the car and swam to shore, but his mother and three of his siblings were killed. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) Photo: Seth Wenig/AP2011

Shortly after a domestic dispute Tuesday night, 25-year-old Lashanda Armstrong drove a minivan with her four children in the back off a dock and into the Hudson River. The only survivor was her 10-year-old son, Lashaun, who climbed out the window and swam through 45-degree water to shore. The van hit the water just after high tide in Newburgh, New York, 60 miles north of the city. "He got out of the car, got up onto the boat ramp, turned around and it was gone,” said Fire Chief Michael Vatter. Lashaun, the oldest of the siblings (5-year-old Landon, 2-year-old Lance, and 11-month-old Lainaina were killed), told authorities his mother said, "If I'm going to die, you're going to die with me," before the vehicle sank. As he tried to escape through the window, she snatched the leg of his pants, saying, "I made a mistake," and tried to switch into reverse, but it was too late. Moments before plunging the minivan into the Hudson, she called an older relative to say, "I'm sorry, I'm going to do something crazy, you have to forgive me," while her children screamed in the background.

Dripping wet on a road near the dock, Lashaun tried to get someone's attention. Other cars drove past the intersection, but Meave Ryan stopped and rolled down her window. "He was screaming for help,” she said. “He said, ‘My mommy just drove the car in the water.’ ”

Although police won't disclose details about the domestic dispute that preceded the murder-suicide, neighbors said Armstrong and her longtime boyfriend, Jean "Prime" Pierre, often argued over his womanizing. The two met in high school. A 22-year-old neighbor admitted to having a three-month affair with Pierre while Armstrong was pregnant with her last child. "My nephew's doing fine," Angie Gilliam, Armstrong's aunt told reporters. "He's really not talking."

Woman Tells of Boy’s Plea for Help After 4 Drownings [NYT]
10-year-old escaped through a window as his mom drove into Hudson, killing 3 kids, herself [NYP]
'You're going to die with me,' Lashanda Armstrong told kids before driving minivan into Hudson River [NYDN]