Jackie Hance, who lost all three of her daughters in a horrific wrong-way crash on the Taconic Parkway in 2009, was seen last week smiling outside her Floral Park, N.Y., home just two weeks before she is to deliver a new baby.
Though she did not talk to reporters, Hance’s neighbors told the New York Post, “We’re all there for Jackie right now.”
“It’s such a special time,” said one. “We just want this to turn out OK. She’s been through so much. The whole family has. They deserve some joy.”
Hance, 40, announced in a story that appeared last summer in the magazine Ladies Home Journal that she was pregnant through in vitro fertilization.
Hance’s daughters — Emma, 8, Alyson, 7, and Katie, 5 — were returning from an upstate camping trip with their aunt, Diane Schuler, and Schuler’s two young children when a drunk Schuler sped the wrong way at 70 mph for two miles along the Taconic Parkway before colliding with an SUV, killing eight people.
Toxicology reports later revealed that Schuler, 36, had a blood alcohol level of .19 — the equivalent of 10 shots of vodka — and a high level of THC from smoking marijuana.
Just minutes before the deadly crash, Hance’s daughter, Emma, had called her mother to say, “Something’s wrong with Aunt Diane.” That was the title of a documentary on the accident that aired several months ago on HBO.
Hance did not participate in the film, but told Ladies Home Journal that her decision to have another child came to her in a dream.
“Parenting is not something you can ever let go of, even if your children are gone,” Hance wrote.
She said that friends persuaded her to have another child as a way of coping with the “torture” that she has felt since her girls died, unable even to cook because it reminds her of her daughters’ excitement at mealtime.
“After the accident so many people suggested that Warren and I consider having another child,” she wrote. “They said having a baby was what the girls would want and it would give us a future.”
The Schulers had borrowed the minivan from their in-laws, the Hances, who are reportedly suing Schuler’s widower, Daniel Schuler.
Daniel Schuler is also suing the Hances, alleging that their Chevy Trailblazer was faulty. He has steadfastly said his wife was “not a drunk driver.” He is also suing New York state, citing poor signposting on the parkway.
Eight people in all were killed in the crash: Guy Bastardi, 43, his father Michael Bastardi, 81, and a family friend, Daniel Longo, 72, as well as the three Hance girls, Schuler and her 2-year-old daughter Erin. The only survivor was Schuler’s son Bryan, then 5, who now lives with an ocular nerve impairment.
“People always ask how I feel about Diane,” wrote Hance. “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?”