Investigators say country music singer Kylie Rae Harris was responsible for the three-vehicle crash that killed her and a high school student on September 4, 2019.
Deputies say Harris hit the vehicle in front of her, which then pushed her into oncoming traffic. She collided head-on with the vehicle driven by Maria Elena Cruz, 16.
Investigators with the Taos County Sheriff’s Office have determined that speed was a contributing factor. The department announced on December 5, 2019, that toxicology results have also confirmed that the singer was severely intoxicated at the time of the crash.
Harris was driving along State Route 522 on her way to Taos, New Mexico. She had been scheduled to perform at the Big Barn Dance music festival.
Here’s what you need to know.
Taos County Sheriff: Kylie Rae Harris Caused the Crash & Maria Cruz Was an Innocent Victim
Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe explained in a news release, emailed to Heavy, that the evidence suggested that Kylie Rae Harris was solely responsible for causing the deadly crash.
He stated plainly, “At this time I will say with most certainty Miss Cruz was an innocent victim of this senseless crash caused by Ms. Harris.”
Deputies say Harris was driving in the southbound lane on State Route 552 toward Taos on September 4. The crash happened about 100 miles north of Santa Fe. Investigators say Harris, who was driving a 2017 black Chevrolet Equinox, hit the vehicle in front of her.
This collision forced Harris’ car into the northbound lane. She then slammed head-on into the vehicle driven by Maria Elena Cruz, 16. Both Harris and Cruz were pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the third vehicle was not injured.
Investigators announced on December 5, 2019, that they had determiend that Harris had been driving 102 miles per hour when she hit the vehicle in front of her. She was speeding at 95 miles per hour when she collided with Cruz.
Cruz’s father was one of the first people on the scene of the crash. Pedro Cruz is the deputy chief of the San Cristóbal Volunteer Fire Department, according to the Taos News.
Deputies Say Kylie Rae Harris’ Blood Alcohol Level Was More Than Three Times the Legal Limit at the Time of the Crash
In the immediate aftermath of the deadly crash, investigators were cautious about assigning specific blame as to whether alcohol had been a contributing factor in the deadly crash. In an email to Heavy on September 6, 2019, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe had said that the results of the toxicoloy report were expected to take “several months up to a year because of no urgency for criminal charges.” At the time, he said that alcohol was a suspected factor but that it wasn’t immediately clear.
But the report took less time than he anticipated. The sheriff’s department announced on December 5, 2019, that Kylie Rae Harris had been severely intoxicated at the time of the crash. Her blood alcohol level was .28, which is more than three times the legal limit.
Sheriff Hogrefe added in a prepared statement, “The now competed investigation supports what we suspected at the time of our initial investigation and my earlier press release that stated alcohol consumption was suspected and speeding was a factor.”
Kylie Rae Harris Pleaded Guilty to Drunk Driving in 2017
Kylie Rae Harris has a past conviction for driving while intoxicated. Public records available online with the Collin County Municipal Court in Texas show that Harris was arrested by officers with the Allen Police Department on June 21, 2017 on suspicion of driving while under the influence, which is a Class A misdemeanor. Court records show that Harris had a blood alcohol content of .15, which is nearly twice the legal limit.
Judge Paul Raleeh ordered that an “Ignition Interlock Device” be attached to Harris’ vehicle. The device requires the driver to take a breathalyzer test before they are permitted to get behind the wheel. If the person fails the test, the vehicle will not turn on.
Harris was formally convicted on October 19, 2017. Her license was suspended for 180 days and she was sentenced to five days in jail, with two days credited. She paid a fine of $460.10.
The court order also shows that Harris applied for an Occupational Drivers License on November 9, 2017. According to TexasLawHelp, it is a “special restricted license that lets you drive a non-commercial vehicle for work, school or to perform essential household duties.” The restricted license is for people who have had their driver’s license suspended or revoked. Harris’ application was granted four days later.