TAOS, N.M. (KRQE) – The Taos community is hurting with the loss of a high school girl. Friday, the sheriff made it clear to everyone, the country singer caused the crash and people need to pay more attention to the other side of the tragedy: the innocent girl who lost her life.
These past two days have been hard on people here. The teen Maria Cruz, was a student at Taos High School. Her family says she was an honor student with a bright future.
“We don’t want her name to be forgotten, because she had so much of her life ahead. She was a very good student and wanted her to study…and for people to take her away, that’s not right,” her uncle, Pedro Soliz, said.
Soliz says his niece always had a big smile on her face and was friendly to everyone she met. Cruz worked with her uncle at the Guadalajara Grill South on Paseo Del Pueblo. Cruz leaves behind a 12-year-old sister, a mother and father.
Soliz says her father works as a volunteer firefighter for San Cristobal. The night of the crash, Cruz’s father responded to the crash scene just north of Taos, unaware that his daughter was involved.
“He’s also an EMT, so he’s no stranger to going out on calls both medical, crashes and other things, but very traumatic for him to not know but to respond anyway and then fined it was his family member,” Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said.
The sheriff says Cruz was heading home from work that night, going northbound on Highway 522. That’s when Texas country singer Kylie Rae Harris, who was in town for a concert the next night, clipped a car and drove into oncoming traffic, hitting Cruz head-on.
They both died on scene. The sheriff says they believe Harris was speeding and may have been drinking, but are waiting on toxicology reports.
Friday evening, the community is coming together to help Cruz’s family. They’re hosting a benefit dinner at the San Cristobal Community Center to raise money for the funeral costs.
Harris has a history of DWI. She was arrested for drunk driving in the Dallas area back in 2017. Her breath alcohol level was double the legal limit. She just had her ignition interlock ordered after that case removed last year.