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Father speaks of drowned children

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 said 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 Landen Pierre, 5, Lance Pierre, 2, and 11-month-old Laianna Pierre. La'Shaun Armstrong, 10, 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.

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.

"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."

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