updated 4/20/2011 5:42:06 PM ET 2011-04-20T21:42:06

The father of three children who died along with their mother when she drove her minivan into the Hudson River said he is not directly responsible for the tragedy but wishes he could change parts of his past.

Jean Pierre broke his public silence Wednesday, eight days after Lashanda Armstrong loaded her children into the van and drove down a boat ramp into the river in Newburgh, 60 miles north of New York City. Police say Armstrong had been involved in a domestic incident at her apartment minutes earlier, and her friends say she was distraught that day.

Pierre doesn't face any charges.

"I have been inaccurately portrayed as being directly responsible for the tragedy," Pierre said in a prepared statement released through a lawyer. "If I could, I would have changed some things in my past."

Armstrong died with 5-year-old Landen Pierre, 2-year-old Lance Pierre and 11-month-old Laianna Pierre. Ten-year-old La'Shaun Armstrong survived by climbing through a window of the sinking minivan.

A woman who was driving past the boat ramp April 12 saw La'Shaun waving his arms. The woman, Meave Ryan, said La'Shaun told her that his mother had had a "big, big argument about my stepdad's cheating on her" before piling the four children into the van and speeding into the river.

Ryan took La'Shaun to a nearby fire station. Rescuers immediately went to the river, but it was too late: They found the van about 25 yards from shore in 8 feet of water, and everyone inside was dead.

Family members sang "Happy Birthday" for the youngest victim, Laianna, at the river landing on Wednesday, marking her first birthday.

A funeral for the mother and the three children had been planned in Spring Valley in Rockland County for Thursday. But Pierre said he wants to grieve for his children privately. After consulting with the Armstrong family, he said, the funeral for his children will be Monday, separate from their mother's funeral.

Pierre's attorney, Stephen J. Powers, said his client is devastated and is staying with relatives. Powers said Pierre would not attend Lashanda Armstrong's funeral because he did not want to be a distraction.

Pierre will spend the day preparing for Monday's funeral for his children.

"I loved Landen, Lance, Laianna, Lashanda and still love La'Shaun with all my heart," Pierre said, "and am shocked and distraught by what happened."

Powers said earlier reports that a judge had ordered Pierre to stay away from his children were incorrect. He said it is his understanding that a charge of endangerment against Pierre stemming from when a 2-year-old boy was found wandering the streets in February was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal. That means if Pierre stays out of trouble for a certain period, the charge will be dropped.

Court offices in Newburgh were closed by 4:30 Wednesday afternoon, and that information could not be confirmed.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: 10-year-old survives family tragedy

  1. Closed captioning of: 10-year-old survives family tragedy

    >>> city area, we woke up to awful news this morning. a mother had deliberately, it turns out, desperately, driven her minivan with four young children inside into the hudson reserve. by the time first responders arrived, it was too late for all but one of the children inside. this happened in newburg, new york, bubt 60 miles from our studios. we have the report.

    >> reporter: on the banks of the hudson river , a memorial and a prayer for three young children who lost their lives in this murky water. distraught relatives leaving toys for children who will never play again. police say tuesday evening, 25-year-old lashaunda armstrong loaded all four of her children into a minivan before driving down a boat ramp and into the river, killing herself, her 5-year-old boy, 2-year-old lance, and 11-month-old daughter. their bodies discovered in the van under eight feet of water.

    >> i don't think to the degree in which we're dealing with the situation today, could it be more trag. but the oldest child survived. the 10-year-old boy was in the fan as it started to sink but managed a frantic escape, lowering the pow window and fleeing before the van submerged,then he climbed up on the banks and flagged a passing motorist.

    >> he was obviously shaken up, having a difficult time trying to explain what happened. he was soaking wet.

    >> earlier that night, police got a call from armstrong's mother, saying she was tussling with the father of his kids. when they arrived, no one was home. those who know ersaid she was juggling work, school, and four kids.

    >> she had issues, but i never thought it would have led to something like this.

    >> police say if the 10-year-old hadn't escaped they may never have found the van or the family, but so far, they have no concrete answers as to why a mother would do the unthinkable.

    >> a case we'll always wonder about. thanks for the report.

Map: Mom drives into river, killing self and 3 kids


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