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Mom of girls killed in wrong-way crash: ‘Hard not to blame yourself’

April 18, 2013 at 8:09 AM ET

In her first interview since the death of her three daughters in a car accident nearly four years ago, Jackie Hance spoke with NBC’s Ann Curry about coming to terms with the events of that fateful day.

In July 2009, Diane Schuler, the girls’ aunt, drove the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway in New York, crashing her minivan into an SUV and killing herself and her own daughter along with the Hances’ three daughters — Emma, 8; Alyson, 7; and Katie, 5. In her new book, “I’ll See You Again,’’ Hance chronicles the ordeal and how the trauma threatened her marriage and left her considering suicide.

Jackie Hance's daughters
TODAY
Jackie Hance's daughters – Emma, 8, Alyson, 7, and Katie, 5 – were killed in a wrong-way crash in 2009.

“I’m their mom, and supposed to protect them, and I didn’t,’’ Hance told Curry. “It’s just hard not to blame yourself.’’

Hance said she expected Schuler to protect her children. Toxicology reports released by state police officials revealed that Schuler had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 percent, more than twice the legal limit, and there were high levels in her system of a chemical found in marijuana.

"I never knew her to drink," Hance said. "So why would she be drinking with my kids in the car and her kids in the car? Like, it's in-- no. Just no. I just thought, 'It's impossible, and it m-- it was a mistake.'"

Hance on daughters: 'My greatest desire is for people to know them'

“I’m not blaming myself for the accident,’’ she said. “I’m blaming myself for them not being here. You know, it’s just — they’re not here. And I’m their mom.’’

In her book, Hance also describes raw and emotional arguments with her husband after the death of their children as well as how they comforted one another.

"He’s a really strong person,'' she told Curry. "I love him. And, I’m sorry for him. I would do anything not to see him in pain. It's hard to watch a person be in so much pain."

'I never knew her to drink': Hance stunned by toxicology report

She has decided to speak publicly about her family's ordeal because she wants her daughters to be remembered for more than the accident.

"I just wanted Emma, Alyson and Katie to be out there and known as Emma, Alyson, and Katie and not the three nieces of the Taconic,'' she said.

Hance has launched the Hance Family Foundation to honor the memories of her daughters by supporting educational programs that foster girls’ self-esteem. She also hopes the book can give others a glimpse into what her girls were like.

"My greatest desire is for people to know them (my daughters) that never got to know them,'' she said. "And maybe, like, Alyson’s art teacher —future art teacher, Emma’s future mother-in-law, or Katie’s future college roommate, or somebody who didn’t get the chance to meet them might meet them through the book."

Curry’s full interview with Hance and her husband, Warren, will air Friday on TODAY as well as on Rock Center With Brian Williams at 10 p.m.

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