Investigation confirms Texas musician was drunk, speeding at time of fatal crash

A memorial that was held in honor of Maria Elena Cruz, 16, of San Cristobal in September after she was killed in a fatal head-on collision on Highway 522 near her home. Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said at the time, "At this time I will say with most certainly that Miss Cruz was an innocent victim of this senseless crash caused by Ms. Harris." Morgan Timms / The Taos News

A Texas singer on her way to the Big Barn Dance in Taos hit speeds over 100 miles per hour before crashing head-on into a vehicle driven by a high school student north of Taos on Sept. 4, according to the Taos County Sheriff's Office, based on vehicle data recorders.

The singer, Kylie Rae Harris, 30, of Wylie, Texas, and the teen, Maria Elena Cruz, 16, of San Cristóbal, both died at the scene of the three-car crash on State Road 522. The driver of the third vehicle was uninjured.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe also said alcohol is suspected as another contributing cause in the crash but said no toxicology reports have been received yet from the state Office of the Medical Investigator. Hogrefe said earlier that Cruz was the victim of a "senseless crash" caused by Harris.

The Taos County Sheriff’s Office confiscated the crashed vehicles and obtained a search warrant Sept. 10 to retrieve the vehicle data recorders. The Taos County Sheriff's Office worked with a reconstruction expert from the Farmington Police Department to download data from the recorders and analyze it.

“The information from the data boxes supports our at-scene investigation that two collision events occurred involving the three vehicles and that speed was definitely a contributing factor," said Hogrefe in a statement issued Thursday (Sept. 19).

Based on reconstructing the crash scene and with information from the data recorders, law enforcement believes Harris, driving a Chevrolet Equinox southbound on the highway, was going 102 miles per hour when she clipped the rear of a black Avalanche. Harris then veered into the northbound lane where it collided at a speed of 95 miles per hour with a Jeep SUV driven by Cruz. The teen was driving 51 miles per hour, according to investigators. "Braking was indicated three-tenths of a second before impact," according to a statement from the Taos County Sheriff's Office.

Cruz was the daughter of the San Cristóbal deputy fire chief. Harris left behind a young daughter.

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