Wrong Way Tragedy

Since: Oct 07

Cloud Nine

#1 Jul 30, 2009

The death ride was 1.7 miles long.

As terrified drivers swerved around her, a Long Island mom with five kids in her minivan barreled down a Westchester highway -- oblivious to the fact that she was traveling south in the northbound lanes.

"Witnesses interviewed thus far indicate she was driving in her lane, not weaving," said State Police Investigator Joseph Becerra. "The witnesses said it did not appear she was falling asleep or under the influence of alcohol because she stayed within her lane."

Diane Schuler ended up killing eight people Sunday -- herself, four of the children in her van and three adults in an SUV she hit.

Why it happened remains a tragic mystery.

Two hours before the crash, Schuler, 36, called her brother, Warren Hance, the father of three little girls in the car, to say she wasn't feeling well.

Hance, 41, who lives in Floral Park, LI, even told her to pull over and he would come and get her, State Police said yesterday.

But Schuler, who lived in West Babylon, said she didn't know where she was and kept driving.

Neighbors said she had taken the route dozens of times.

Schuler and the kids were returning from a trip in Sullivan County, where she and her husband, Daniel, a Nassau County peace officer, own a trailer.

Riding with her in the red Ford Windstar minivan were her adorable, blond daughter, Erin, who had just turned 2, her 5-year-old son, Brian, and three nieces, Kate, 5, Allison, 7, and Emma, 9.

Schuler, apparently traveling east on Route 9A, missed an entrance ramp for the Taconic State Parkway and instead entered at the Pleasantville Road exit, police sources said.

The ramp is clearly marked with "Do Not Enter" and "One Way" signs. Schuler then crossed three lanes of traffic and began driving down what to her would have been the highway's slow-speed right lane, the sources said.

Instead, she was going the wrong way and was in fact in the high-speed left lane, the sources said. Six drivers made 911 calls from their cellphones.

She traveled 1.7 miles before crashing head-on into a Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV with three men inside just after passing Route 117.

Her minivan rolled down an embankment and caught fire.

The crash killed Schuler, her daughter and her nieces. Her son, Brian, survived and was in stable condition at Westchester County Medical Center with a broken arm and head injuries.

Hawthorne Fire Chief Joseph LaGrippo said Schuler was ejected from the blazing minivan with one leg missing and her body on fire.

After colliding with the minivan, the Trailblazer spun out of control and struck a Chevrolet Tracker mini-SUV.

The three men in the Trailblazer, Mike Bastardi, 81, his son, Guy, 49, and Daniel Longo, 74, were killed.

The passengers in the third vehicle, Angela and Dean Tallarico, both 53, of upstate Freehold, suffered cuts and bruises.

State Police Capt. Michael Realmuto said Schuler might have been suffering from "some type of medical condition."

But so far, investigators have been unable to determine she was treated for anything, sources said.

A standing-room-only crowd last night packed Our Lady of Victory Church in Floral Park, LI, where the Hance family has been longtime parishioners.

The Rev. Bruno Dekram paid tribute the children, describing Emma as "intelligent," "athletic," and "caring" of her siblings.

Alison "was a character," he said. "Her smile could light up a room and she was Daddy's little superstar."

He praised Kate's confident manner, saying, " If you told her she was beautiful, She would say,'I know.' "

Larchmont, NY

#2 Aug 2, 2009
There are no words. We shall never forget and parents across the country are feeling your pain. I cannot get you out of my head. May God give you strength.

Schaumburg, IL

#3 Aug 6, 2009
This is such a tragedy. God will give you strength, through your pain and suffering. My prayers are with you.
Patti L

Forest Hills, NY

#4 Sep 2, 2009
The husband is in DENIAL...POOR GUY

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