A 16-year-old girl, Maria Elena Cruz, died in the accident last week, according to the Taos County Sheriff’s Office in New Mexico. Officials have said that Harris, 30, was responsible for the crash and added that alcohol may have been a factor.
The country singer’s mother, Betsy Cowan, said that drinking was “something [Kylie] struggled with on-and-off over the years.”
She also alleged that Harris may have been exhausted and not necessarily under the influence of alcohol.
“If you’ve ever had to take defensive driving, they say sleep deprivation, emotions and alcohol are the top three contributors to most wrecks,” Cowan told People magazine. “And so any one of those things could have done it… She had driven 11 or 12 hours that day, and I’m sure that she was exhausted and she was emotionally exhausted. And I think we all know what that does to you.”
Before the crash, Harris posted an Instagram video saying she had been driving for 12 hours, Fox News reported.
Cowan added to the magazine: “If you’ve ever had a little kid and they run around the living room in circles trying to keep themselves awake and they look like they’re on steroids—I think that after driving 12 hours and being excited and wanting to stay awake, that that’s the probable frame of mind that she was in at that point. And that’s probably not safe, but we really won’t know the answer for quite some time.”
“Texas is a huge state, and she would drive all up and down the state highways to remote towns and out in the middle of nowhere,” Cowan explained. “Those musicians are traveling at 2 o’clock in the morning when everybody out there is dangerous. It’s a very dangerous life to lead. But she was made to do what she did, and I would never want her to have not been that.”
Officials said that Harris was driving down State Road 522 in a Chevrolet Equinox when the car hit a Chevrolet Avalanche pickup truck. She then veered to the left into oncoming traffic, hitting the 2008 Jeep driven by Cruz.
Officials said Pedro Cruz, a Taos County firefighter and EMT, responded to the scene and found his daughter dead, KRQE reported.
“He’s also an EMT, so 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,” Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said in the report.
“They just want the community to remember their daughter, Maria Elena, as kind, loving and caring,” said Taos County Fire Chief Mike Cordova, according to the New York Daily News. “Wonderful daughter, wonderful sister, and just kind-hearted soul.”
“She would always be there for other people if they’re like sad or anything, she was just good in every possible way,” said Alexandra Salazar, a friend of Cruz’s, reported KRQE.
“The toxicology report from (the) investigation will confirm or deny alcohol or other substances in both drivers,” Hogrefe said.
According to USA Today, Harris had a prior DWI conviction in Collin County, Texas, in 2017. She was told to install an ignition interlock device on her vehicle at the time.
Family members of Cruz created a GoFundMe to raise money to help her family.
Both Maria and Harris died at the scene of the crash, according to news reports.
Other details about the case have not been released.