Family and friends hugged each other so tight they looked like they didn't want to let go. Much like the precious lives lost, saying goodbye is simply too painful and too final.
"The family is grieving," family friend Douglas Hayden said. "This has been a difficult time for the parents and grandparents. The tragic loss of young children. No words can explain the horror of the tragedy."
The family is asking that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Hance-Schuler Family Foundation at 49 Locust Street, Garden City NY, 11530.
Part of the horror includes the question without an answer - why did this happen?
Police say Schuler, who died along with her young daughter and three nieces, told her brother she was having difficulty seeing before the accident.
State police on Wednesday said they are looking into reports that Schuler may have said that she felt a little disoriented.
Authorities have said that Schuler called her brother about two hours before the crash on the Taconic State Parkway in Westchester County.
Police say they are awaiting results from toxicology tests. A preliminary autopsy showed no medical cause for the crash that killed eight. Schuler's minivan, traveling southbound in the northbound lanes, rammed head-on into an SUV Sunday. The crash killed the 36-year-old mother, 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. Three people in the SUV, identified as 49-year-old Guy Bastardi; his father Michael, an 81-year-old Korean War veteran; and family friend Daniel Longo, 74, all of Yonkers, also died in the crash.
Schuler's son, 5-year-old Bryan, survived and is in stable condition.
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.
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