It’s every parent’s worst nightmare — finding out their child had died. Pedro Cruz, an EMT, was responding to a call of a three-car crash only to find that one of the victims was his 16-year-old daughter. Rising country singer Kylie Rae Harris, who also lost her life, was reportedly at fault due to high speeds, and it is suspected that alcohol also was a factor.
Maria Elena Cruz, a student at Taos High School, was pronounced dead at the scene after investigators surmised that Harris clipped the back of another vehicle, sending her into oncoming traffic, Taos News reported.
Maria’s vehicle was struck by Harris head-on. “At this time, I will say with most certainty that Miss Cruz was an innocent victim of this senseless crash caused by Ms. Harris,” Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said at a press conference.
Maria’s father Pedro was one of the first responders on the scene, which understandably left him and the family reeling. “He’s no stranger to going out on calls — both medical, crashes and other things — but very traumatic for him to not know but to respond anyway and then find it was his family member,” Hogrefe added.
The family created a GoFundMe to cover the cost of Maria’s funeral. Once they raised the needed funds, they took it down. In addition, the community of San Cristobal held a fundraiser event for the family to help cover other costs associated with the 16-year-old’s untimely death, KHOU 11 reported.
Investigators suspect that alcohol played a factor in the death of Maria. Harris, who was coming back from performing at a show in New Mexico, posted on social media before her death: “Dear baby Jesus please don’t let me get stranded in NM,” referring to her car being low on gas.
Investigators are still waiting on the return of the toxicology report for a definitive cause. The 30-year-old singer was charged with a DUI in 2017, with the court demanding she install an ignition interlock device so she could check her blood alcohol levels before driving, CBS News reported.
Accoridng to Harris’ mother, the single mother had struggled with drinking, and it was “something [Kylie] struggled with on-and-off over the years.”