New York State Police said Sunday they are investigating whether speeding could have caused the fiery car crash that killed five family members -- including a woman and her three children -- on the Southern State Parkway as they returned home from a gathering in Brentwood.
Police also are determining whether alcohol might have played a role in the Saturday night single-car crash that killed driver Myriam Lebrun, 37, her mother, Marie Rose Yolande Moise, 68, and her three children, Marquis Jeanty, 14, Marcel Jeanty, 9, and Kayla Jeanty, 8, all of Brooklyn.
"It looks like a combination of speed, and we're investigating the possibility of alcohol," lead State Police investigator Charles Knapp said Sunday.
Lebrun's 1998 Honda Accord veered off the roadway in North Babylon and crashed into a tree shortly before 11 p.m. Saturday, erupting into flames on impact, police said.
Relatives at the party told investigators that Lebrun didn't eat, but had a few drinks during the night, Knapp said. The relatives said they didn't think she was intoxicated, he said.
Other relatives who didn't attend the gathering said Sunday Lebrun would not have put her family at risk.
"She was health-conscious. She doesn't smoke, she eats healthy. She cares about her life," said Mayerline Moise, 26, a cousin who lives in Hempstead. She called Lebrun "a very safe driver."
Christine Moise, 20, another cousin, also of Hempstead, said, "She wouldn't endanger her family. She just wouldn't."
A witness told State Police that she saw the headlights of Lebrun's car speeding up behind her as she drove west on the parkway near Exit 38, adjacent to Belmont Lake State Park, according to a police report. That witness reported that Lebrun's vehicle passed her at a speed of more than 60 mph, then immediately went into the woods, according to the report. The speed limit is 55 mph.
Another witness reported seeing the Honda speeding and weaving on the parkway, police said. Detectives are awaiting toxicology reports, which can take several weeks to complete.
The impact caused the car to shear in half. Lebrun and Marquis, who sat in the front passenger seat, were both wearing seat belts, according to the police report. Moise and Kayla were ejected from the rear of the car. That part of the vehicle was too badly damaged for investigators to determine if they had been wearing seat belts, police said.
Lebrun's father, Jean Lebrun, sat on his daughter's porch sobbing Sunday as he processed the loss of his child, grandchildren and ex-wife.
"What can I do? This is a part of life and I have to deal with it. I have to survive," Jean Lebrun, 72, said through an interpreter.
He last saw his daughter two weeks ago.
"We just talked," he said.
Other family members who spoke from a home on Ormond Street in Hempstead where they had gathered said Lebrun had been studying at Kingsborough Community College for a job in a health-related field.
Marquis adored basketball, Marcel had an artistic streak, and Kayla was a "little runway diva" who "could play dress-up all day," Christine Moise said.
Yolande Moise's brother, Eustache Moise, 64, of West Hempstead, said he found out about the deaths while watching a television newscast early Sunday.
"I'm trying to hang on, that's all I can do," he said.
Myriam Lebrun moved from Haiti to Eustache Moise's home in Hempstead in 1994, family members said. She lived there until 2002.
When first responders arrived at the crash scene about 11 p.m. Saturday, the flames from the vehicle were 10 to 15 feet high, North Babylon First Assistant Fire Chief Robert Cabano said.
"The front of the car was pretty much engulfed in flames," he said. "There was a lot of trauma to the vehicle."
It took firefighters about 15 minutes to put out the fire, which Cabano said was confined to the front of the car. The westbound parkway was closed for several hours after the crash, reopening about 3:30 a.m., police said.
Among the broken glass and tree branches at the crash site Sunday was a child's shirt with cat designs on it, children's shoes and a pair of high heels.
Edmond Edouazin, a friend of the Moise family from Haiti, photographed the wreckage -- the tree split in half, its bark charred.
Edouazin, 54, of Huntington, said he was lifelong friends with the family from "the old country," and he considered them family.
"We're still trying to figure out what happened," Edouazin said.
"They're devastated," he said of the families. "It's too much emotion."