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Friends, neighbors devastated at Schuler family's loss

Neighbors Lisa Acosta, left, and Carmine Spitaleri, right,

Neighbors Lisa Acosta, left, and Carmine Spitaleri, right, console a relative of Diane Schuler, a West Babylon resident who died along with seven other people in a crash Sunday on the Taconic State Parkway. (Photo by Ed Betz/July 27, 2009) Photo Credit: Photo by Ed Betz

On a typical summer day, the front yard of the Schuler home was alive with laughter and child's play. Neighbors remembered happy times -- like father Daniel trimming the grass as his son, Brian, 5, pushed a toy lawn mower closely behind, or his daughter, Erin, 2, squealing with delight as sprinklers sprayed her.

The silence outside the family's West Babylon home Monday was a stark reminder of the tragedy that has befallen the Schulers, leaving a father without a daughter and wife, and a son without a sister and mother.

Photos: Latest from the fatal Taconic Crash and reaction

"I'm still planning on that door opening up and the kids screaming for me to play with them," said Lisa Acosta, 42, who lives across from the Schulers and has known them since they moved in about seven years ago. "It's really devastating."

As investigators sought answers to why Diane Schuler, 36, drove a minivan the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway Sunday -- causing a crash that killed her and seven others - neighbors held out hope for a full recovery for Brian Schuler, the sole survivor of the accident. He remained in stable condition Monday at a hospital in Valhalla, Westchester County, police said.

"His life is changed forever," Anne Jeannine Cuozzo, 37, a teacher who lives down the street, said of Brian. "We're looking at what we can do for the family, Mr. Schuler, especially . . . He's in for a long battle."

Residents sketched a portrait of a hardworking couple -- she, as a Cablevision accounting employee, and her husband, Daniel Schuler, 37, as a nighttime security officer for the Nassau police.

In a statement, a Cablevision spokesman said, "Diane Schuler was a beloved friend and colleague who worked for Cablevision for more than 10 years. We are deeply saddened by this loss, and extend our sympathies to Ms. Schuler's family and friends."

Neighbors described them as devoted parents, attentive to the safety of their children. "She always kept a keen eye on them," said resident Steve Shaughnessy, 34.

Said Acosta: "When she takes the groceries out of the car, she won't even let the kids out until all the bags are on the stoop."

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