Boy Who Survived Van Tragedy Returns to River

By Sara Frazier
|  Wednesday, Apr 20, 2011  |  Updated 5:55 PM EDT
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Photos: Boy Escapes as Mom Drives into River

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The boy who escaped his mother's van as she drove it into the Hudson, killing herself and his three siblings, returned to the scene of the tragedy to say prayers for his lost loved ones.

Angela Gilliam, the aunt of the young mother who plunged her van into the water in Newburgh, N.Y. on Tuesday night, told NBC New York that 10-year-old La'Shaun Armstrong asked to go back to the boat ramp on Thursday.

"He asked me, 'Auntie can you bring me down to the water?'" she said. "I let him walk out by the water and I walked away. I let him say his prayers. That was his time."

LaShanda Armstrong, 25, drowned in the Hudson along with three of her kids: Landen Pierre, 5, Lance Pierre, 2, and Laianna Pierre, 11 months. La'Shaun managed to roll down a window, escape and swim to safety.

Gilliam said the child is "coming along," but fiercely misses his two brothers, little sister and mother.

Armstrong posted a message on her Facebook page less than an hour before she drove into the river, apologizing for what she was about to do.

"I'm so sorry everyone forgive me please for what I'm gonna do ... This is it!" she posted at 7:13 p.m. via her BlackBerry, according to MidHudsonNews.com, which obtained access to her private Facebook page.

Loved ones held a vigil Thursday evening near the boat ramp where Armstrong plunged into the river Tuesday night.

Newburgh, N.Y. Mayor Nicholas Valentine says calls and emails are coming in from people around the country asking how they can help support the child who survived.

A passerby who found the boy, shivering and soaking wet on the shore, said he told her his mom tried to put the van in reverse and repeated: "I made a mistake, I made a mistake."

Passerby Meave Ryan says he told her that his mother said: "If I'm gonna die, you're all going to die with me."

The boy told Ryan that his mom was upset because his stepfather was cheating on her.

Police identified Jean Pierre as the father of the three children who died; the boy has a different father. Police said Pierre has been questioned but declined to elaborate.

Newburgh police on Thursday released details of Pierre's criminal history, which included a charge of endangering the welfare of a minor in February. Police said Pierre was arrested after 2-year-old Lance Pierre was found wandering on the street at 1:15 a.m., partly undressed and in wet clothing.

Police said Pierre had been left in charge of the child that night.
 

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