Authorities are still searching for answers into why a woman drove the wrong way for nearly two miles on the Taconic State Parwkway on Sunday -- a crash that killed eight peple -- as mourning family members prepare to say their last goodbyes.
A wake for Diane Schuler, her daughter, Erin, 2, and Schuler's three nieces, Emma Hance, 9, Alison Hance, 7, and Kate Hance, 5, was held at Dalton Funeral Home, 29 Atlantic Ave., in Floral Park. The funeral is set for tomorrow.
An autopsy conducted Monday only deepened the mystery into why Schuler, 36, a seemingly healthy mother taking her son, daughter and three nieces home to Long Island from an upstate camping trip, drove the wrong way on the Taconic Sunday, eventually slamming into another car, killing the three men from Yonkers inside. The men were identified as Michael Bastardi, 81, and his son, Guy Bastardi, 49, and their friend, Daniel Longo, 73.
Only Schuler's son Bryan, age 5, survived. He is in stable condition at Westchester County Medical Center.
A statement from family members today said "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."
State police Investigator Joseph Becerra said the minivan was traveling southbound in the northbound lanes of the Taconic State Parkway when it struck an SUV and then careened into a third vehicle. The minivan rolled down an embankment, where it burst into flames.
The minivan's front end appeared to have been almost entirely smashed in, and its shell was scorched and bent. At least one wheel was blown out.
Fire spread from under the minivan, throughout its shell, within minutes.
Investigators are exploring the possibility that the accident was caused by some sort of medical condition. Schuller called her brother two hours before the crash and told him she wasn't feeling well, state police said at a news conference. Hance told her to pull over and said he would go to get her. It's unclear where she was at the time or exactly what occurred after that.
Six people called 911 to say a driver was going the wrong way.
The scenic Taconic State Parkway was built over a number of years in stages beginning in the early 1920s, initially as an extension of the Bronx Parkway from New York City to Bear Mountain Bridge.