By Jessica Sager
Published September 08, 2019
Harris, 30, died late Wednesday night in a three-vehicle collision that she allegedly caused, and authorities previously claimed that alcohol was a factor.
The country singer's mother said drinking was “something [Kylie] struggled with on-and-off over the years.” She also claimed that Harris may have just been exhausted, not necessarily under the influence, at the time of the fatal accident.
“If you’ve ever had to take defensive driving, they say sleep deprivation, emotions and alcohol are the top three contributors to most wrecks,” Betsy Cowan told People. “And so any one of those things could have done it… She had driven 11 or 12 hours that day, and I’m sure that she was exhausted and she was emotionally exhausted. And I think we all know what that does to you.”
In an emotional video posted just hours before Harris' crash, the singer said she'd been driving for 12 hours and reflected on the deaths in her family linked to her memories of Taos.
Cowan said, “If you’ve ever had a little kid and they run around the living room in circles trying to keep themselves awake and they look like they’re on steroids — I think that after driving 12 hours and being excited and wanting to stay awake, that that’s the probable frame of mind that she was in at that point. And that’s probably not safe, but we really won’t know the answer for quite some time.”
“Texas is a huge state, and she would drive all up and down the state highways to remote towns and out in the middle of nowhere,” Cowan added. “Those musicians are traveling at 2 o’clock in the morning when everybody out there is dangerous. It’s a very dangerous life to lead. But she was made to do what she did, and I would never want her to have not been that.”
“It’s something that we worried about quite a bit when she started traveling like that because she wasn’t, honestly, famous enough to have a driver,” she continued. “She drove herself everywhere and sometimes her car was working well and sometimes it wasn’t. It was a daily struggle for her, and that’s true for a lot of startup musicians.”
Cowan also said that Harris' last memories of Taos were heartbreaking: When Harris' father was last in the northern New Mexico town, he was visiting his terminally ill mother, who died shortly after. Within 10 days of Harris' grandmother's death, her aunt also died. When Harris' father went to the doctor upon arriving home from Taos, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and died nine months later.
“Kylie’s last remembrances of her dad — before he got sick — were at Taos,” Cowan says. “So that was huge.”
Law enforcement said Harris was traveling south on State Road 522 in a black 2017 Chevrolet Equinox when the SUV made contact with the back of a Chevrolet Avalanche pickup truck. Authorities said the maneuver caused Harris to veer left into oncoming northbound traffic where her vehicle collided head-on with a white 2008 Jeep Liberty driven by the teenage girl.
Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the Avalanche was uninjured.
Police said Pedro Cruz, a Taos County firefighter/EMT, responded to the scene and found his daughter, Maria Elena Cruz, 16, dead upon arrival.
“He’s no stranger to going out on calls — both medical, crashes and other things — but very traumatic for him to not know but to respond anyway and then find it was his family member,” Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said.
The Sheriff’s Office also suspects speed and intoxication were factors in the accident, though authorities are awaiting a toxicology report from the Office of the Medical Investigator before making any official determination.
Court records indicate that Harris had a history of drinking and driving. In June 2017, she was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated after records indicated she had a blood alcohol content level of over 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit. Harris was convicted in October 2017 and was ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed in her car.
The crooner was also cited for speeding in 2014 when she was clocked going 81 in a 60 MPH zone.
Court documents obtained by Fox News show Harris was charged in May 2009 with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. However, she was granted deferred adjudication – a form of probation in Texas that allowed a “guilty” or “no contest” plea to be scrubbed from her record if she completed the terms of the agreement. Court records indicate the charges against Harris were dismissed on May 19, 2012, exactly three years later.
A GoFundMe Page was set up for the teen’s funeral expenses, while a separate GoFundMe has been created to raise money for Harris' funeral and her 6-year-old daughter's college fund.
Fox News' Julius Young contributed to this report.