GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – A woman whose three daughters were killed in a wrong-way drunken driving crash on a highway north of New York City is expecting a baby, she said in her first public comments since the wreck that killed eight people in 2009.
Jackie Hance made the announcement in an article she co-wrote for the August edition of Ladies' Home Journal. The magazine appears on newsstands Wednesday.
Hance's sister-in-law, Diane Schuler, was driving Hance's red minivan home from a weekend camping trip to upstate New York on July 26, 2009, when police say she inexplicably drove south in the northbound lanes for 1.7 miles of the Taconic Parkway before colliding head-on with another vehicle in suburban Westchester County. Investigators have determined that Schuler was intoxicated and had been smoking marijuana.
Schuler, her daughter and her three nieces were killed, along with three men traveling in the oncoming vehicle. The lone survivor was Schuler's son Bryan, now 7.
At the close of the three-page article, Hance makes a joyful pronouncement about the future.
"Every day all I want is to be reunited with my girls again in heaven," Hance writes. "But Emma, Alyson and Katie have other plans for me right now. Our baby is due in the fall."
She said she and her husband, Warren, were shocked to learn later that Schuler had been intoxicated and had been smoking marijuana.
"We're family, so we buried the girls next to Diane and Erin (Diane's daughter)," Hance writes. "But I had no idea at the funeral what we would find out later. Toxicology reports showed that Diane had a blood-alcohol level double the legal limit, along with evidence she'd been smoking marijuana. Warren and I were stunned."
Diane Schuler's husband, Daniel, has repeatedly rejected requests for interviews, but in an upcoming HBO documentary set to air on the eve of the second anniversary of the crash, he insists — as he has all along — that his wife must have been suffering from a medical condition that would explain her actions.
He rejects toxicology reports that show she was intoxicated. He concedes that his wife smoked marijuana on occasion but denies that she was under the influence at the time of the crash.
Hance also explains how she has struggled to accept Schuler's actions; her sister-in-law was a cable television executive who earned a six-figure salary and was described as a responsible and doting mother and control freak.
"You can't imagine how complex that question is. How does a person go from being like a sister to me — adored by my girls and cherished by my husband — to being the one who ruined our lives? How could this person I trusted completely have done something so unthinkable that I couldn't, and still can't, wrap my head around it?
"I pray every day that there is another explanation. To not have any answers is torture. I don't know how to describe that pain."
Hance said she was aware that a documentary was in the works, but doubts she will ever have the strength to watch it. In the minutes before the crash, Hance's daughter Emma phoned home to say that her aunt was struggling with an unknown malady. The crash occurred before police could locate the troubled woman on the highway.
"The film is called 'There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane.' The fact that they used my daughter Emma's last words as a title only makes it that much more painful," she wrote.
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