TODAY

TODAY   |  April 22, 2013

Jackie Hance: Baby daughter ‘brought us back to life’

Nearly four years after losing her three daughters in a car crash, Jackie Hance opens up to Ann Curry about learning her sister-in-law was driving with them while under the influence, feeling suicidal in the aftermath of the crash, and giving birth to daughter Kasey, now 17 months.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back now at 8:11. it's been four years about since a tragic wrong-way accident in new york. a mother driving drunk and high, killing herself, her daughter, her three nieces, and three men in another car. well now her sister-in-law is telling her story in a new book called "i'll see you again." ann curry sat down with her and her husband lauren for an exclusive interview.

>> they were my life. they were the reason i was put her, i believe. because they were really just really amazing girls .

>> i love you all.

>> reporter: they were 8-year-old emma .

>> make a silly face.

>> reporter: 7-year-old allison . and 5-year-old katie .

>> i did it, daddy!

>> reporter: in july 2009 , the three excited little girls were heading out on a camping adventure in upstate, new york, with their aunt diane and uncle danny. did you have any concerns about entrusting your girls to your sister-in-law diane ?

>> no. i had known her for 20 years. i mean, she was a rock. and she was just always -- she just -- i never did. i know the girls loved her.

>> reporter: after a weekend of fun, the three girls with diane and her own two children set off for home in a minivan, while danny took the dog in his pickup truck. jackie called diane that morning to check in. she says her sister-in-law sounded fine. but close to 1:00, the phone rang. it was emma sounding alarm.

>> mommy, something's wrong with aunt diane .

>> reporter: mommy, something's wrong with aunt diane . and she was crying.

>> uh-huh. and i didn't understand. i said what do you mean? i could hear allison crying in the background. i said let me talk to aunt diane . and so diane got on the phone. she just kept saying they're playing and they're having fun . she just didn't sound right.

>> diane didn't?

>> no. she wasn't making any sense.

>> reporter: jackie says she was stunned by what investigators say happened next. they say diane turned the minivan with all the children onboard and drove right into oncoming traffic.

>> state police , 911.

>> yeah, you got a guy driving south on the northbound parkway.

>> reporter: eyewitnesss say diane was racing at speeds approaching nearly 85 miles an hour for two miles, just barely missing other vehicles. the minivan collided with an suv and exploded into flames, killing all three sisters, diane , her daughter, as well as other men riding in the suv. eight people in all. only diane 's 5-year-old son brian survived. the toxicology report showed diane 's blood alcohol level was more than double the legal limit. it also found marijuana in her blood. and in the wreckage of the minivan, police found a broken bottle of vodka. jackie could not make sense of how a woman she trusted and loved as a sister could do such a thing.

>> i never knew her to drink, so why would she be drinking with my kids in the car and her kids in the car? like, no, just no. i just thought it's impossible. and it was a mistake.

>> reporter: in the weeks and months after the funeral, jackie slid beyond despair.

>> i just wanted to be with the girls so bad that i got to emotional and so fixated on seeing them again, and so the thought of being in this pain forever was just too much to handle.

>> you contemplated suicide.

>> uh-huh.

>> reporter: you even had a plan for how to do it.

>> uh-huh. i had been putting a few pills away from each prescription and taken one or two from warren's and just hiding them.

>> reporter: jackie knew she had to change her life if she was going to survive. her friends convinced her to rejoin their early morning runs, and after a while, they even suggested she think about having another child to help her heal. she refused to even consider the idea, feeling she was too broken to be a mother again. and besides, technically, it wasn't possible because she had had her tubes tied. but her friends persisted and got her to a fertility specialist. so you tried.

>> i tried.

>> reporter: and?

>> i got pregnant.

>> reporter: on october 11th , 2011 , casey rose arrived, and for the first time in more than two years, jackie felt joy.

>> oh, my gosh, i see myself in the mirror.

>> reporter: she says emma , allison , and katie are always with her. in fact, they are the inspiration for the hance family foundation, which helps young girls build confidence and self-esteem. the hances want every girl to be confident and happy, just as they wish for their own daughters. it has become a mission for warren.

>> does it keep one person out of trouble? does it keep one girl from feeling bad about themselves for one day? i know we've made a difference. where that difference goes tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that, you know, you can only dream.

>> reporter: to help support the foundation financially, jackie has written a book, "i'll see you again." she writes about hope in the face of suffering and the spirit of her girls .

>> my greatest desire is for people to know them. that never get to know them. and maybe emma 's future mother-in-law, or katie 's future college roommate, or somebody who didn't get the chance to see them might meet them through the book.

>> reporter: jackie and warren's new bundle of joy casey is now 17 months old, a little girl teaching her parents to let go of some of their tragedy and to know that even after all that has been lost, there is still a way to go on.

>> it just gives you a meaning again. when you lose everything and you get something to hold on to, there's really no way to be able to describe it.

>> she brings a heart beat to this house again. there was none. she brought us back to life.

>> and you can see much more of ann's interview friday on "rock center with brian