Kylie Rae Harris’ Mom Says She ‘Struggled With’ Alcohol in Years Before Fatal Crash
The mother of country singer Kylie Rae Harris is speaking out in the wake of her daughter's death in a car crash in New Mexico on Wednesday (Sept. 4). Betsy Cowan tells People that Harris "struggled with" alcohol in the years prior to her death in a crash in which investigators suspect alcohol was a factor.
Harris, 30, died on Wednesday on State Road 522 in Taos, N.M., when the black Chevrolet Equinox she was driving clipped a black Chevrolet Avalanche from behind, sending her into the oncoming lane of traffic. Harris collided head-on with a white 2008 Jeep driven by 16-year-old Maria Elena Cruz. Both drivers died at the scene. The driver of the Avalanche was uninjured.
Investigators believe speed and alcohol were both factors in the crash, according to Taos News. Though the toxicology report is still pending, Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe placed the blame for the accident on Harris.
"At this time I will say with most certainty that Miss Cruz was an innocent victim of this senseless crash caused by Ms. Harris," he tells Taos News. Taste of Country reached out to both the sheriff and the Taos Police Department for clarification on the sheriff's comments. Neither has responded.
Cowan tells People that alcohol was “something [Kylie] struggled with on-and-off over the years." She declined to elaborate “out of respect to both families.”
According to public records, Harris had a DWI in 2017 with a blood alcohol level exceeding .15, which resulted in having an ignition interlock installed in her car. She had a previous citation for speeding in 2014 for going 81 in a 60 MPH zone.
The singer — who released her most recent musical project, a self-titled EP, in March — was slated to perform at the Big Barn Music Festival on Thursday, and she shared a series of Instagram Stories videos during her 12-hour road trip to Taos on Wednesday, posting the last one just hours before she died in the crash. She was emotional and reflective about the time she had spent in Taos in the past.
"I spent the last 20 years of my life coming to Taos with my dad, my sisters, my grandparents lived here, my uncle still lives here," she said. "Literally everybody that was here has passed away, except for my uncle, including my dad."
Toxicology reports on the crash won't be available for several weeks, but Cowan tells People the “results are the same” to her “regardless of what caused it.”
“If you’ve ever had to take defensive driving, they say sleep deprivation, emotions and alcohol are the top three contributors to most wrecks,” she states. “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.”
Cowan adds that long drives like that were nothing unusual for Harris, since she "wasn't famous enough" to have a driver and her gigs were often far apart.
“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.”
Harris was a single mother, and she leaves behind a six-year-old daughter named Corbie, who will live with her aunt — Harris' sister, Randee — while her father earns his engineering degree in college.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to raise money for Harris' funeral expenses and her daughter's college education. A separate GoFundMe page is raising money for Cruz' funeral expenses.
These Country Singers Know Tragedy All Too Well: