Funeral, new questions in Taconic crash
HAWTHORNE (WABC) -- Parents and young children were among the mourners who streamed into Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church to remember five family members killed in a wrong-way crash on the Taconic State Parkway on Sunday.
The sound of bagpipes filled the air as friends and family stood in solemn silence while each casket was carried to the sanctuary.
The funerals were held for 36-year-old Diane Schuler, her 2-year-old daughter Erin and her nieces, 8-year-old Emma Hance, 7-year-old Alyson Hance and 5-year-old Kate Hance.
At times during the funeral, the grief seemed unbearable.
"This is a very difficult time here in Floral Park," Rev. John O'Farrell said. "It's difficult for the family and all the residents of Floral Park and West Babylon."
Warren Hance, the father of the three older girls who died, broke down as he tried to thank the congregation and community for their support as the Mass began.
"Love your children, cherish your children, kiss your children and don't ever forget," Hance said as he broke down in sobs that set off a chain-reaction of tears throughout Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church. An overflow crowd listened on loudspeakers in a park across the street.
Moments earlier, Hance considered a future without his children.
"When you see us on the street, please don't look away, please don't be afraid to talk to us. You don't have to offer any more condolences, you don't have to tell us how sorry you are...Our whole families only ask that you keep my girls, my sister, and my niece and all of us in your daily prayers."
Four full days after the crash, the cause still remains a mystery.
Three men from Yonkers also died Sunday when Schuler crashed her minivan, head on, into an SUV driven by 49-year-old Guy Bastardi. The minivan plunged down an embankment and burst into flames. Bastardi died along with his father, Michael, an 81-year-old Korean War veteran; and family friend Daniel Longo, 74.
Funerals will be held Saturday for the Bastardis and Monday for Longo. Both Masses will be at St. John the Baptist Church in Yonkers.
Bastardi's SUV spun out and hit a third vehicle, whose occupants escaped serious injury.
The only survivor in the crash was Schuler's 5-year-old son, Bryan, who remains hospitalized in stable condition with severe head trauma.
Investigators say Diane Schuler called her brother hours before the crash and said she was feeling disoriented and having blurred vision. But the autopsy has shown no obvious medical explanations.
Meanwhile, investigators are trying to figure why Schuler's cell phone was found abandoned along the New York State Thruway.
Investigators say it now appears she crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge into Westchester County and stopped in a pull-off area.
STATEMENT FROM HANCE/SCHULER FAMILIES:
The Hance and Schuler families would like to express their deep sorrow for the loss of five beloved members of our family. We also extend our condolences to the Bastardi and Longo families and regret the grief this tragic accident has caused.
Diane Schuler, 36, was a dedicated wife to her husband, Danny, and a devoted mother to her children, Bryan and Erin. Diane was an accomplished working mother who balanced her responsibilities with grace; she always put her children before any other priorities. She was a constant, doting presence in her nieces' lives, and our extended family admired her competence, ease with children and sense of humor. Never has there been a more responsible and trusted friend or caregiver.
Diane and Danny's daughter, Erin McKeough, was the light of their family. At two, Erin was full of laughter and love. She was very bright, asking questions about everything and beginning to speak in full sentences. Erin enjoyed books, pictures and animals; she was a bright and exuberant girl who loved to blow bubbles and gave her family great joy.
Eight-year-old Emma Alexandra, the oldest daughter of Warren and Jackie Hance, was equal parts scholar and athlete, with honors in Math and Reading as well as gymnastics, soccer, track, basketball and softball. She also loved performing onstage. Emma took her role as the oldest sister very seriously, looking out for her sisters and setting the perfect example for them: polite, helpful, caring and warm.
Alyson Elizabeth, the middle Hance daughter, had a smile that would light up any room. She was protective and nurturing, vivacious and joyful. At 7, Alyson also excelled at both school and sports, enthusiastically taking part in soccer, softball and gymnastics. She was a smart and loving girl for whom acquaintances became friends instantly and joyfully.
The youngest Hance daughter, Kate Marie, known to many as Katie, was very mature for her age - inquisitive and self-assured. As all the girls were, Katie was adored by her sisters and her extended family. She loved to dress up and had many, many friends, both boys and girls. Katie was a loving, confident, completely adorable five-year-old who embraced life and wanted nothing more than to bring happiness to her friends and family.
One great blessing amid our sorrow is that Bryan Schuler, also 5, survived the accident and is in stable condition. He is surrounded by his family and his doctors are optimistic that he will make a full recovery.
We extend our deepest gratitude to the members of Westchester's Law Enforcement Agencies and Fire Department who responded immediately and fearlessly to the accident, and also to the extraordinary team at Westchester Medical Center. We are also grateful to the Floral Park Police Department and the Hawthorne Fire Department for their generous assistance.
Our families are deeply thankful for the outpouring of support from our communities, with particular gratitude to the Our Lady of Victory parish, Bishop Murphy of Rockville Center and the Floral Park School District. We ask everyone, especially the media, to respect our privacy as we grieve for our beloved sister, aunt, mother, daughters, cousins and friends. There will be no more statements at this time.
WEB PRODUCED BY: Lakisha Bostick
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