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Mother posted 'forgive me’ before fatal plunge into river

Sole survivor, 10, says she admitted 'mistake’ too late

By Michael Hill
Associated Press / April 15, 2011

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NEWBURGH, N.Y. — The suicidal mother who loaded her four children into a minivan and drove into the frigid Hudson River warned in a cryptic Facebook message just before the fatal plunge: “I’m so sorry everyone forgive me please for what I’m gonna do. . . . This Is It!!!!’’

Her 10-year-old son, who swam ashore as his mother and three siblings drowned, says she told her children, “you’re all going to die with me,’’ then changed her mind and tried, too late, to back out of the river, according to the woman who found the sopping wet boy.

“I made a mistake, I made a terrible mistake,’’ the boy quoted his mother as saying.

Just before 8 p.m., Lashanda Armstrong put her children into the van and drove into the river. Armstrong and three of the children, boys ages 5 and 2 and an 11-month-old girl, died. Ten-year-old La’Shaun Armstrong escaped.

Meave Ryan was driving past the boat ramp in Newburgh on Tuesday evening when she spotted La’Shaun waving his arms.

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 yesterday that the boy said Armstrong 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.

But as the vehicle sank, La’Shaun broke free of his mother’s grasp and clambered out a window. Ryan said: “While he was doing that, he heard his mother saying, ‘I made a mistake, I made a terrible mistake.’ And she tried to reverse the car out, but at that time it was too late. He said, ‘Mommy, I’m going to go get help,’ and she said, ‘OK.’ And that was the last he heard from his mother.’’

Ryan drove the boy to a nearby fire station. Rescuers immediately went to the river, and found the van about 25 yards from shore in 8 feet of water. Lashanda Armstrong and the three children were dead.

La’Shaun is staying with an aunt, who said he is “doing fine.’’

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