(April 27, 2004) - MARION - The last thing Sherry Dreier remembers before the crash is her daughter’s scream as the car skidded through a stop sign into the paths of an oncoming pickup truck and a sport utility vehicle.
”That keeps going over and over in my mind,” said Dreier, 28, whose two daughters, Chanda, 14, and Kimber, 11, and their friend Amanda Schermerhorn, 15, were killed in the crash Saturday at a rural intersection in the Wayne County town of Arcadia.
”Chanda was in the front seat beside me. I just remember her saying ‘Mom! Stop sign!’ And I tried to stop, but before I could we were right there in the middle of the road and it was already way too late.
”My two beautiful daughters, and precious little Amanda - who was just like my own child - are gone,” she said, her voice quavering and chin trembling. “And it was an accident, but I keep coming back to, ‘Well, I’m the one to blame.’”
Her husband, Tim Dreier, arrived at the scene just in time to see his 11-year-old pronounced dead and hear his 14-year-old speak her final words. He said he and family members are focused now on supporting his wife.
”I’m sticking behind her, even though at times I feel maybe I shouldn’t, because she made such a bad mistake - a really bad mistake,” he said. “It’s hard, and it gets harder every day, because I miss my kids.
”Kids shouldn’t die at that young age. I love my wife, but I miss my kids so much. They were just gorgeous, gorgeous girls. It gets harder every day. I guess this is going to be the hardest week of my life.”
According to Wayne County sheriff’s deputies, Sherry Dreier of 5069 Steurrys Road, Marion, told investigators she was driving about 70 mph in the 55-mph speed zone when her car skidded into the intersection of Decker and Minstead roads and collided with a truck driven by Wayne Schultz, 54, of Marion. Schultz and a passenger in his vehicle, Robert Kuhn, 28, remained Monday in area hospitals, where they were being treated for serious injuries.
Dreier’s car also collided with a vehicle driven by Rustin Havert, 43, of Newark, who escaped without serious injuries.
Wayne County District Attorney Richard Healy said Monday that reconstruction of the accident scene is under way and that he would likely present police findings to a grand jury, possibly in June, to determine whether any charges should be filed.
Healy said there was no evidence that drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash.
In her living room on Monday, Sherry Dreier leafed through photographs of her oldest children and showed off clay pots and hand-crafted items they had made in school and church.
She spoke of their love for their little sister, Angelle, 6, and brother, Jesse, 8, and for the seven dogs, three horses and assorted turtles, cats and birds that also enjoy the run of the family’s rural homestead.
”If I could’ve been the only person killed and those kids could have lived, it would have been better for me and better for everybody,” she said. “People are saying on television that I got out with ‘just a minor bruising.’ And I did, except for a broken heart that is always going to be broken. They’ve got me on a lot of medication now. There’s a lot of pain going through me, inside and out.”
Sherry and Tim Dreier say they’re trying not to think about possible criminal charges that she might face in connection with the accident.
Police said Sherry told them at the crash scene that she was unfamiliar with the road, and that she was traveling about 70 mph when she crested a hilltop and found herself unable to stop the car. She was also unfamiliar with the family’s new car and said she had only driven it five times.
”She’ll have to face whatever charges might get filed,” said Tim Dreier, who took his wife’s name when the couple married. “But we’d only had the car two weeks, and she wasn’t used to driving a car with an engine that powerful. And she didn’t know the road and how that stop sign comes up after that hill. She said she was speeding up to get over the hill.”
Sherry’s father, Ken Dreier, said he and other family members are concerned about the emotional impact on his daughter of serious legal charges in addition to the grief of losing two of her own children and the realization that her actions caused the death of a third child.
”I really don’t like some of the news reports that have tried to paint my daughter as a criminal,” he said. “My wife and I adopted Sherry when she was 12, after she had been in a series of foster homes. She’s had some problems, and now we’re concerned about the effect this tragedy is going to have. We’re all trying to console her. She’s very devastated emotionally.”
”It’s a horrible thing that happened, but it was an accident,” said her mother, Deborah Dreier, “and there’s no reason for people to be pointing fingers and making her feel like a criminal.
”She was taking the girls to the store to get lunch, but some of the news reports make it sound like she was out just joyriding at 100 mph. She doesn’t even really know how fast she was going. No one does.”
Amanda Schermerhorn’s family members, though struggling with their own grief over the death of the 15-year-old, said Sherry Dreier already has been punished for any mistake she may have made while driving the car.
”Our hearts and our prayers are with her and her family,” said Amanda’s stepmother, Heaven Kent. “Amanda’s father and everyone who knew and loved the girls is just devastated. Those were three great kids, and they were very, very close. All we know is that our beautiful little girl is gone. We’re all hurting, but there is no anger or hostility or anything like that.”
Sherry Dreier said she called Amanda’s family in an effort to express her sorrow and remorse over the crash.
”Those girls, all three of them, were so much a part of all our lives,” Sherry said. “I just can’t believe this has happened.
”Here,” she said, holding up a bright pebble. “This a stone that Amanda found the other day and gave to me. I’ll keep it forever.
”Oh, all of the ‘what-ifs’ that keep going on in my mind. If I could only go back and make it not happen. Those girls were my whole life. I don’t know how I’m going to go on living without them.”