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Timeline for tragedy on Taconic Parkway

Officers investigate the scene of a three-car accident,

Officers investigate the scene of a three-car accident, which killed eight people Sunday in Westchester County. (July 26, 2009) Photo Credit: The Journal News Photo

Journey to tragedy minute by minute


5 to 6 a.m. - Diane Schuler's husband, Daniel, wakes up, cleans his boat.

7 a.m. - Diane Schuler wakes up, rouses the children - her son, Bryan, 5, her daughter, Erin, 2, and nieces, Emma, 8, Alyson, 7, and Kate Hance, 5.

9:30 a.m. - The family leaves the campsite, Daniel in a pickup with the luggage and dog and Diane in her brother's minivan with the children.



9:56 a.m.- Diane Schuler arrives at a McDonald's. Security video shows the children eating and playing. Cashier says Schuler acted normally.

10:33 a.m. - Schuler leaves the McDonald's.

10:46 a.m. - Schuler gets gas, asks a clerk for gel-cap analgesics, which the store doesn't carry. Employees say Schuler seemed fine.

10:58 a.m. - They leave gas station, head south on Route 17.


11:37 a.m. - With Schuler's phone, Emma calls her father, Warren Hance, at work in Floral Park and says in a 47-second conversation that they may be late. Schuler speaks to Warren, says nothing worrisome.

Between 11:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. - A red minivan is seen being driven aggressively on Route 17 in Orange County, a witness says.

11:45 a.m. - Another witness sees a woman who looks and is dressed like Schuler - black long-sleeved T-shirt, short pants - bent over as if vomiting on Route 17 outside Middletown. Minivan later passes the witness' vehicle and continues "zigzagging in and out of traffic."

12:08 p.m. - Jackie Hance, mother of Emma, Alyson and Kate, calls Schuler's cell. They speak for less than two minutes. Nothing seems wrong.

12:13 p.m. - Van goes through Harriman Toll Plaza.


Between 12:15 and 12:45 p.m. - Witnesses see a red minivan with children driven by a dark-haired woman weaving aggressively through traffic, straddling lanes, blowing the horn.


Between 12:15 and 12:45 p.m. - One witness sees a red minivan pulled over, just north of the Thruway service area in Sloatsburg. A woman fitting Schuler's description sits on the guide rail and "appeared to be ill." Another witness says the pulled-over minivan enters the highway and begins tailgating him. The van unsuccessfully tries to pass on the shoulder, then blows its horn for one mile. The witness pulls into the Sloatsburg service area and heads for the McDonald's. The van follows, heads toward truck parking areas, then drives over a grassy area into car parking.


12:55 p.m. - A 17-second call from Schuler's phone is a wrong number.

12:58 p.m. - Schuler calls Jackie Hance at home, sounds "out of it," the report states. The 2 1/2-minute call ends abruptly, a lost signal.

1:01 p.m. - Warren Hance arrives home as the call ends. He calls Schuler back, and they speak for about eight minutes, as Schuler goes through the Tappan Zee toll at 1:02 p.m. Schuler sounds disoriented, the report states. Emma gets on the phone, and Diane pulls over. Emma sounds upset but says she is all right. She sees a sign for Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. Diane gets back on the phone, and Warren tells her to wait where she is.

1:10 p.m. - Someone in the minivan dials four wrong numbers in one minute. Schuler leaves her phone "neatly" on a concrete barrier in a pull-off area just past the tolls and drives away, police say.

1:15 p.m. - Warren Hance calls but the phone goes to voice mail. About a dozen other calls go to her voice mail in the next 20 minutes.


Sometime after 1:30 p.m. - Schuler turns right from Pleasantville Road onto an exit ramp for the Taconic State Parkway, heading the wrong way. She drives south into northbound traffic for 1.7 miles, forcing more than a dozen motorists to swerve out of the way.

1:35 p.m. - The minivan smashes head-on into a sport utility vehicle carrying three Yonkers men to a family party.

1:37 p.m. - State police, told by the Hance family that Schuler may be having a medical emergency, try calling Schuler's number.


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