Questions, anger after tragic wreck kills Texas rising star and a teen in Taos

Profile photo of Kylie Rae Harris from @KylieRH on Twitter.
Profile photo of Kylie Rae Harris from @KylieRH on Twitter.

Texas singer-songwriter Kylie Rae Harris’ career was set to take off. She’d enjoyed attention from media lately and had gotten good reviews of her latest album release. Her heartfelt song “Twenty Years From Now” was written to her young daughter, and listening to it raises questions in addition to questions about the tragic wreck that took her life and the life of an innocent teen, Maria Elena Cruz.

Highway 567, junction, near Taos, Taos, New Mexico. (John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive, US Library of Congress)
Highway 567 junction, near Taos, New Mexico. (John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive, US Library of Congress)

Harris was killed in a three car accident as she drove to do a show at a festival in Taos, New Mexico. While many are pointing the finger at Harris as the cause of the accident, it’s important to remember the investigation isn’t complete and toxicology results aren’t in yet. In other words, we don’t have full answers yet. There’s another aspect to this, though, and I admit it stems from my upbringing.

On the day she died, Harris had posted to her Instagram account. She talked about driving for 12 hours, and she recalled travel to Taos to see relatives when she was a child. In the rambling account, she’s tearful as she remembers loved ones from Taos who had passed on. She dwelled on those she loved and were no longer with her.  Her behavior as she talks about this suggests profound emotion. Here’s where my upbringing comes in.

Spiritual matters are part of your life if you had a Southern upbringing, regardless of your ethnicity. In my family, we have had several who had an uncanny ability to know the future before it happened. Considering Harris’ state of mind about those loved ones who’d passed on, it raises a question for those who believe in spiritual matters. Were the thoughts in her mind and her emotional state a response to some sort of otherworldly warning?

I don’t know. It’s impossible to tell. I know what some of my departed kinswomen would say. I do know sometimes I’ve made decisions based on unusual thoughts at key moments and came away very glad I did.

At this point, there’s backlash towards Harris because of the death of the other victim in the accident—16 year old Maria Elena Cruz. The teen was coming from work when the accident happened. Authorities believe Harris may have caused the wreck. USA Today reported Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe’s remarks about it:

“[I]nvestigators 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 newspaper also reported something else—a tragedy of epic proportions. Taos County EMT Pedro Cruz responded to the accident and found his daughter Maria Elena had died at the scene.

The wreck occurred on State Road 522 in Taos located in northern New Mexico.

While many on social media have unleashed anger towards Harris, as I said earlier, until the investigation is complete, we don’t have reliable facts. Some officials are saying speed was a factor. Toxicology reports aren’t in yet.

What we do know is that Harris had driven many miles and was in a remote area on Friday evening. We also know there are families grieving the loss of young lives, and there aren’t enough words to cover the toll that takes. When someone dies young, the grief can be almost unbearable to those left behind.

Harris was talented, and like many other working musicians, she spent hours driving to shows and did all that she could to make it in one of the hardest arts industries you can choose. If you are a working musician or you know one, bear in mind the dangers traffic presents even when you’re doing everything right. I can’t count the accidents my daughter Rebecca has avoided on the road due to distracted, impaired, or impatient drivers. I travel with her, and it is amazing, the lack of regard on the parts of some drivers.

Until we have full information from the investigation and toxicology reports, people will hopefully refrain from leaving angry messages on social media. We should never be judgmental based on initial, unsubstantiated media reportage.

Sympathy to families who lost these loved ones.  We often overlook the risks inherent in travel because of tired, impaired, or distracted drivers. We should pay more attention to that as a leading cause of death and injury in our country. In 2017 more than 37,000 people died in traffic crashes in the US. If you’re a careless driver in any condition, you do not have the right to take or endanger the life of another.

Sometimes things happen that we can’t explain. I think Harris had an intuition I wish she’d recognized. If you listen to her song, “Twenty Years From Now,” you may, as I did, get goosebumps. Did she have a premonition? We’ll never know.

For related reading, see articles at Saving Country Music about Harris.

(Kay B. Day/Sept. 8, 2019)

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