WAGENER - As the annual Wagener Christmas parade blared outside, a family gathered at Blizzard Funeral Home on Saturday and prepared to bury five members.
Relatives of Linda Tindal, two of her children and two of her grandchildren were upset but also angry - angry at the drinking habit they say caused their loss.
"If they could take pictures of those two babies and publish them in the damn paper, wouldn't anybody drink and drive again," Cynthia Nance, Ms. Tindal's niece, said after seeing the mangled bodies of the children.
Ms. Tindal, 41, daughters Nikki Tindal, 10, and Christine Tindal, 8, granddaughter Brittany Tindal, 4, and grandson Justin "Bubba" Tindal, 3, all died Friday when Ms. Tindal's car weaved into the oncoming lane of Seivern Road and ran under the front of a school bus, empty but for the uninjured driver.
The crash occurred just before 8 a.m. A half-full can of beer was found in the car. Preliminary toxicology reports showed Ms. Tindal's blood-alcohol level was as much as three times the legal limit of 0.10 percent, the South Carolina Highway Patrol said.
Relatives described the Tindals as a formerly close family, shattered by another death nine months ago.
Ms. Tindal and her husband, Luther, were migrant workers, taking their four children with them from state to state as they picked fruit.
"They never went anywhere without those kids," niece Roxanne Hooker said, holding a folded, wet paper towel across her eyes. "They never hired a baby sitter because they never needed one."
But when Mr. Tindal got sick with cancer about two years ago, he and his wife and children settled in Wagener, where his extended family could take care of them.
"They never went without, even though he couldn't work," Ms. Nance said.
Mr. Tindal died in March.
"It tore them apart," Ms. Nance said of the Tindal family.
That's when Linda Tindal started drinking, her three nieces said.
"She drank every day. Not liquor, not beer - bootleg moonshine," niece Sandy Gatlin said.
Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend said Tina Mauldin -- Brittany and Justin Tindal's mother -- told her Ms. Tindal had been drinking "all of her (Tina's) life."
Ms. Mauldin and her sister moved out of Ms. Tindal's trailer a few weeks ago. Ms. Mauldin is 18 or 19 years old, relatives said, and she left Brittany, Justin and an 8-month-old baby with Ms. Tindal.
The baby girl was with Tina Mauldin on Friday morning, they said, when the other children died. But Ms. Mauldin wasn't at the funeral home Saturday. Ms. Nance thought Ms. Mauldin was working but didn't know where.
It fell to the three nieces to go find clothes for the children to be buried in. On Monday, much of the Tindal family will be back together, lined up in plots next to Luther Tindal.
"They're going to bury all four right next to him," Ms. Nance said.
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