Apr 15, 2011

Boat ramp

NEWBURGH, N.Y. (AP) -- A suicidal mother who loaded her four children into a minivan and drove off a boat ramp into the frigid Hudson River changed her mind as the van sank and cried, "I made a mistake, I made a terrible mistake," said her 10-year-old son, who survived by crawling out a window and swimming ashore.

Lashanda Armstrong had warned in a cryptic Facebook message just before the fatal plunge: "I'm so sorry everyone forgive me please for what I'm gonna do.... This Is It!!!!"

Her 10-year-old son, the only survivor as his mother and three siblings drowned, says she had told the children, "You're all going to die with me," but then tried, too late, to back out of the river, according to a woman who found the sopping wet boy.

Meave Ryan was driving past the boat ramp in Newburgh, about 60 miles north of New York City, on Tuesday evening when she spotted the boy, La'Shaun Armstrong, waving his arms.

Ryan said the boy told her that his mother had had a "big, big argument about my stepdad's cheating on her," then piled the four children in the minivan and sped into the river.

Ryan told The Associated Press on Thursday that La'Shaun said Armstrong had held him and the other kids -- boys ages 5 and 2 and an 11-month-old girl -- as the minivan began sinking.

"She was holding on to all of them and said, 'If I'm going to die, you're all going to die with me,'" Ryan said. "She said that two or three times."

But as the vehicle sank, La'Shaun broke free of his mother's grasp and clambered out a window.

Ryan said: "While he was doing that, he heard his mother saying, 'I made a mistake, I made a terrible mistake.' And she tried to reverse the car out, but at that time it was too late. He said, 'Mommy, I'm going to go get help,' and she said, 'OK.' And that was the last he heard from his mother."

Ryan drove the boy to a nearby fire station. Rescuers immediately went to the river, but it was too late: They found the van about 25 yards from shore in 8 feet of water. Lashanda Armstrong and three children were dead.

Ryan's account conforms to reports from police, who say Armstrong was involved in a domestic incident at her apartment Tuesday evening and within minutes had plunged off a boat ramp into the river just a half-mile from her apartment in a hard-luck section of the city.

The Facebook message, posted from Armstrong's BlackBerry, was obtained by MidHudsonNews.com. It posted on her page at 7:13 p.m. Tuesday, about a half-hour before she drove into the river.

"I don't know if we'll ever find out what Lashanda Armstrong was thinking when she left that home and drove to the river," Newburgh police Chief Michael Ferrara said.



  1. This is just tragic. Nobody or no situation is ever worth taking your life or the lives other innocent people, especially helpless children. I am glad that one of the kids survived and hopefully his family will give him the support and help he needs to come to terms with what he experienced.

  2. Very tragic and heartbreaking. I normally have the Today show on in the morning while getting ready. I stop right in my tracks when I heard this story. Absolutely devastating. My heart goes out to the little boy and his family. God help them all.