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Mom Who Drove Van Full Of Kids Into Hudson's Last Words: "I Made A Terrible Mistake"

Tragic last words: "I made a mistake".

It’s difficult as a mom to comprehend the actions of a mother who could kill her own children.

Now, as the woman who found the sole surviving child of the incident speaks out, we’re learning more about the possible motives of the mother who loaded her four children into a minivan and drove it into New York’s icy Hudson River Tuesday.

Additonally, MidHudsonNews.com is reporting that Lashanda Armstrong announced her plan in a cryptic Facebook message posted from her BlackBerry just before hitting the gas. The message was posted on Armstrong’s page at 7:13 p.m. Tuesday. It read: “I’m so sorry everyone forgive me please for what I’m gonna do…. This Is It!!!!”

Meave Ryan was driving past the boat ramp in Newburgh on Tuesday evening when she spotted 10-year-old La’Shaun Armstrong waving his arms. The Associated Press reports the boy told her his mother drove the car into the river and as his mom and three siblings drowned, said, “you’re all going to die with me,” then changed her mind and tried to back out of the river.

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 today that the boy said Armstrong had held the kids 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.’ She said that two or three times,” Ryan said.

The 10-year-old was able to wrestle free of his mom and climb out a window of the sinking van. While he was doing that, the boy told Ryan he heard his mother say, ‘I made a mistake, I made a terrible mistake.’ And she tried to reverse the car out, but it was too late. La’Shaun said `Mommy, I’m going to go get help,’ and she said, `OK.’ And that was the last he heard from his mother.”

Rescuers found the van about 25 yards from shore in 8 feet of water. Lashanda Armstrong and three children — ages 11 months, 2 and 5 — were dead.

The little boy’s story matches police reports that say Lashanda Armstrong was involved in a domestic incident at her apartment Tuesday evening. Her aunt called police around 7:45pm to report a fight at her niece’s apartment. By the time police got there, Lashanda was gone. Just minutes later she drove the van off the boat ramp and into the river.

Was she mentally ill? Or was it a horrific, spur-of-the-moment decision made in anger? Wouldn’t you have to be mentally ill to make that kind of decision, regardless of anger? But how spur-of-the-moment can something be when you stop to Facebook? As Strollerderby’s Sierra Black reported yesterday, the Associated Press is linking the case to the Susan Smith case in 1994, in which a woman drove her children into a lake but survived herself. I don’t know that it’s ever been definitively proven that Smith suffers a specific mental illness. Can you definitively prove that sort of thing?

Regardless of mental illness, Armstrong was obviously lucid enough, by all accounts, to carry on a normal life, raising four children. One can only assume she was coherent enough to have realized she might need help. With three children involved, I just can’t help but search for answers and ask why and how it might have been prevented.

“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,” said Newburgh Police Chief Michael Ferrara.

“She was a good mother. She was going through some stuff,” Armstrong’s aunt told the Associated Press of her niece. “Nobody knows what my niece went through.”

No matter what was in Armstrong’s head as she drove off that ramp and whether or not she regretted her actions at the last minute, three innocent children are dead. Besides Armstrong, Landen Pierre, 5, Lance Pierre, 2, and 11-month-old Laianna Pierre died. 10-year-old La’Shaun, who has lost his entire family, is staying with his aunt.

Police say they’ve questioned the man they identified as the father of the three dead children. But haven’t released any details.

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