The three children who drowned with their mother when she drove her minivan into the Hudson two weeks ago were buried together Monday in one cemetery plot as heartsick relatives wept over their tragic deaths.
Loved ones, family members and friends gathered in Spring Valley to mourn 5-year-old Landen, 2-year-old Lance and 11-month-old Laianna Pierre. Their older brother, 10-year-old La'Shaun Armstrong, managed to escape the doomed van by rolling down a power window and making his way to shore.
The children had open caskets at the funeral Monday; the baby wore a white dress and the boys were in dark suits, according to relatives. The 10-year-old who survived did not attend the funeral because it was too difficult, a family member said.
Tensions erupted at the service after relatives were split last week about whether the children should be mourned and buried with their mother.
LaShanda Armstrong drove her van down a boat ramp in Newburgh April 12 following an argument with the drowned children's father, Jean H. Pierre.
Pierre announced in a statement last week that he planned to have his children's funeral separate from their mother's service on Thursday.
Mourners on Monday were divided into factions inside the funeral home, said Gwendolen Green, a second cousin of the mother.
"You could cut the tension with a knife," she said.
Mourners were checked against a list before they were allowed inside.
Green said she was not on the list, but she managed to get in.
"You're not going to keep me from going in and seeing my family," she said.
Michael O'Connor, a lawyer for Pierre, denied there was any restriction on guests from Armstrong's side of the family. He said Armstrong's relatives were simply asked to provide a list of guests for police and the funeral home.
"We didn't hear any complaints," in advance, he said.
After the service, the three small caskets were loaded into a waiting white hearse and taken to Gethsemane Cemetery in nearby Congers, N.Y., for private burial, in one single plot together.
LaShanda Armstrong was remembered Thursday at the First Baptist Church in Spring Valley, N.Y., where she laid in a closed white casket, surrounded by flowers and photos. Her dead children were represented by three balloons.
At the time, Rev. Weldon McWilliams Jr. recalled the pain and endless questions about what happened the night she plunged her minivan into the river.
"All of us say she shouldn't have done this, but we weren't there ... you don't know what you would have done," McWilliams said.