By Natalie Neysa Alund, Tennessean | Kylie Rae Harris, a 30-year-old rising Texas country singer, caused the fatal, three-car crash that killed her as well as 16-year-old girl in northern New Mexico [last week], the Taos County Sheriff Office is reporting.
Harris, a 30-year-old Wylie, Texas, native, was scheduled to perform Thursday at a music festival in Taos, New Mexico. Harris and 16-year-old Maria Elena Cruz died in the Wednesday night wreck on State Road 522.
“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.
Hogrefe told the Taos News that investigators believe Harris caused Wednesday’s crash and that speed appeared to be a contributing factor when she clipped the back of another vehicle, sending her into oncoming traffic. She then crashed head-on into an SUV driven by the teenage Cruz.
The sheriff said Pedro Cruz, a Taos County Firefighter/EMT, responded to the scene and found his daughter dead at the scene.
A third driver escaped injury, according to information from the sheriff’s office.
Authorities said alcohol is also suspected.
“The toxicology report from (the) investigation will confirm or deny alcohol or other substances in both drivers,” Hogrefe said.
The Taos News reported that Harris had a prior DWI conviction in Collin County, Texas, in 2017 and had been ordered to install an ignition interlock device on her vehicle, according to court records.
A student of Radney Foster, Jerry Jeff Walker and Patty Griffin, Harris, a single mother, wrote her first song at age 14. She released a pair of albums this decade before debuting her self-titled EP in March. A, reflective six-song effort, it chronicled Harris’ troubadour life as she moved from Texas to Nashville and back again.
The record featuring co-writing from Nashville songwriters Jon Randall, Wayne Kirkpatrick and Dave Berg.
Students and faculty at Taos High were in shock after learning that Cruz was killed in the crash. The sophomore was remembered as beautiful, kind, hardworking, intelligent and inspirational.
Taos County Fire Manager Mike Cordova said in an email to the Associated Press that the Cruz family was reeling from her death.
Now closed: Loved ones of the 16-year-old who died created a GoFundMe page to raise money to help her family with any needs. https://www.gofundme.com/f/sj2ua-marias-family
Thank you note from Mariah’s family: Hello everyone, I would like to inform you all that Marias family is satisfied with the amount that has been raised. I will keep the GoFundMe closed, however all your love, support, and prayers have not gone unnoticed. Please continue doing this because it really does help. Also since I am not 18 years old my mom, Marlene, will be withdrawing the funds and we will give all the money to Marias family. I makes me so happy to know that Maria is so loved, she is truly and incredible person. Thank you all again.
Reach Natalie Neysa Alund at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.
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Rising Country Singer Kylie Rae Harris, 30, Dies in a Three-Vehicle Crash in New Mexico
By Karen Mizoguchi, People | The country singer died in a three-vehicle crash in northern New Mexico on Wednesday night, according to multiple reports.
“We are heartbroken to confirm that Kylie Rae Harris passed away in a car accident last night,” Harris’ publicist confirmed in a statement to Billboard on Thursday. “We have no further details to share, and ask for privacy for her family at this time. Everyone that knew Kylie knew how much she loved her family and, beyond that, how much she loved music. The best tribute to her unmatched enthusiasm for both is to spread as much love as you can today, and listen to music that fully inspires you.”
Harris is survived by her 6-year-old daughter Corbie. A GoFundMe page was created to help Harris’ family with funeral costs and a college fund for Harris’ daughter. [This is now closed.]
The Taos County Sheriff’s Office told the Associated Press that two drivers — a 30-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl — were killed and that the third driver escaped injury on State Road 522. Alcohol is suspected to be a factor in the crash.
Harris, who released two albums and her most recent self-titled EP in March, was in the northern New Mexico town to play the Big Barn Dance in Taos Thursday, according to Saving Country Music. Harris’ last post on Twitter alluded to her vehicle being low on gas. “Fuel range is 46 miles and I’m 36 from the nearest gas station. Dear baby Jesus please don’t let me get stranded in NM,” she tweeted.
Following the news of Harris’ death, Maren Morris paid tribute on her Instagram Story. “Damn. I just heard the news and I’m in shock,” the country star wrote along with a photo of Harris.
“@kylierh, you have always been so sweet and supportive of me. Your soulful voice and Texas beauty was always jaw-dropping, even when we were teenagers at the Larry Joe Taylor festival. Thinking of your family and your precious baby girl right now. Rest In Peace,” Morris added.
Country star Randy Rogers remembered Harris as a “great person,” telling Taste of Country: “She made everybody feel welcomed and loved and cared for. She was a really bright shining light. You know, she really was. I remember the first time I heard her sing, I’ll never forget it.”
“Wave on Wave” singer Pat Green Tweeted, “The music world lost a beautiful, kind and incredibly talented woman last night … rest in peace Kylie Rae Harris!”
Hours before Harris’ car crash, she posted a touching message about Taos in videos on her Instagram Story. “I’m alright, I look a mess. It’s because I’ve been crying. It’s a good cry. I just got to Taos, NM. … But for those of you who don’t know, I spent the last 20 years of my life coming to Taos with my dad, my sisters, my grandparents lived here, my uncle still lives here. Literally, everybody that was here has passed away, except for my uncle, including my dad,” she wrote.
“Driving these roads today—I’ve been driving for 12 hours—you would think that’s so exhausting and boring … And remembering my place in the back seat, and I started getting really sad,” she concluded.
A rep for Harris and the Taos County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.