The Village of Floral Park was reeling with grief and disbelief after three young sisters were among eight people killed when a Long Island woman drove the wrong way for 1.7 miles Sunday on a Westchester highway.
“It’s very quiet in the streets,” said Floral Park, L.I., Mayor Kevin Greene, following the crash that killed Emma Hance, 9, and her sisters Alison, 7, and Kate, 5. “The faces of many of the residents are of shock, confusion. They don’t know why it happened.”
State Police investigators were unsure why 36-year-old Diane Schuler, of West Babylon, L.I., drove her SUV southbound on the northbound section of the Taconic Parkway at Briarwood Manor before colliding with an SUV driven by Guy Bastardi of Yonkers, the Associated Press reported. The police said she called her brother to complain of feeling ill two hours before the crash.
Her brother, Warren Hance, the father of the three Floral Park girls, said he would pick up Schuler, her 2-year-old daughter and his girls from the highway and urged her to pull over on the road, according to State Police Lt. James Murphy, the AP reported.
“She didn’t indicate specifically what was bothering her, but obviously something was wrong because her brother did ask her to pull over,” Murphy said, according to the AP.
Murphy could not be reached for comment.
Schuler was the Hance sisters’ aunt. Schuler was killed in the crash along with her daughter, Erin, 2; Bastardi, 49; his father, Michael, 81; and a family friend of the Bastardis, Daniel Longo, 74, of Yonkers, the AP said.
A memorial ceremony for the Hance sisters was held Monday night in Floral Park. About 800 residents from the tight-knit community attended, Greene said.
“The ceremony last night, it was a great, great way of the community showing their support for the family,” the mayor said. “The outpouring of the community is nothing but heartwarming. Sadly enough, we’ve had incidents in the community before and the residents always come together.”
Warren Hance is a lifetime resident of Floral Park, Greene said, and his sister grew up in the village. He said the family has deep roots in the community, noting that the siblings’ great uncle was the village’s police commissioner.
“A lot of generations are affected by this,” Greene said.
The mayor said village workers set up barricades near the Hance home on Vanderbilt Avenue so their privacy could be respected.
“We’re trying to give them as much privacy as they can get,” Greene said. “I have kids their age, so I don’t know what condition [the family] could be in.”
A funeral mass was scheduled for the Hance sisters at Our Lady of Victory Thursday morning.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2009 Community News Group
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