"It was completely engulfed, with a woman who was burning," Hawthorne Fire Chief Joe LaGrippo said. "Several people were ejected, most of them children. We prioritized, and we were able to save one young child's life."
Four cousins, all under the age of 10, who were riding in the minivan were killed, as was the driver. The fifth child in the van was rushed from the scene to Westchester Medical Center. The driver is said to be the 36-year-old mother of the surviving child. Another of her children, a daughter, was among those killed. They were part of a family from Floral Park and West Babylon, on Long Island.
A witness, Katrina Papha, who was traveling north on the parkway to a family barbecue in Mahopac, said she saw the accident in her rearview mirror.
"One car goes this way, one goes that way, up in the air, both of them," she said. "I was crying. I was shaking."
Her brother, Peter Dedvukaj, driving in another vehicle, said he saw smoke ahead and traffic came to a standstill.
"People were getting out to help, shouting, 'We need help! We need help!"' Dedvukaj said. "Everybody said, 'There are kids in the car."'
He said he and others opened a door of the minivan and "there was a body in front of us." He said they helped pull out the children they could see - two girls, who appeared to be dead, and a boy, who was kicking and screaming.
The children who died were girls ages 2, 5, 7 and 9. The surviving child, a boy, is 5. LaGrippo said that when he got to the scene, the minivan was engulfed in flames. He said one of the children was dead, and three others were near death.
The three people in the SUV, all men from Yonkers, were also were killed. Two people in the third vehicle survived the crash.
With white sheets spread across a portion of the median, one by one, the victims were taken from the scene and into waiting vans, as police and firefighters stood nearby.
WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King
NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS
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