In the News
Drunk Mother’s Fatal Car Crash Tragedy
Diane Schuler was drunk and stoned when she drove to her death – taking seven lives with her
-The Betty Editors
It is a story filled with heartbreak. Last week a woman, Diane Schuler, with a minivan filled with kids, drove the wrong way on a New York parkway and crashed headlong into another car. She died, as did her three young nieces, ages 8, 7 and 5, as well as her two-year-old daughter. Three men in the vehicle she hit also died. Her son was critically injured and a couple in another car was also hurt.
A horrible accident that seemed inexplicable. She had called her brother to say she was disoriented and was having trouble seeing. He told her to pull over and he would come and get her. But she drove on, entering a highway on an exit ramp and driving fast into the traffic until the horrible crash.
How had this happened? Was she sick? Suicidal? What could possess a woman with a car full of children to drive so erratically? Why did she not simply stop and wait if she was having so much trouble?
Medical tests have provided the answers. Diane Schuler was drunk and she was high. She had guzzled vodka and smoked pot. She had knocked back the equivalent of 10 shots of 80-proof liquor and smoked marijuana possibly only 15 minutes before the crash. There was a broken bottle of Absolut in the car. She may even have been drinking and smoking as she drove.
Her family, including her adorable young nieces, had been at an upstate New York campground. Her husband had driven off in one car with the family dog. She had taken the kids and was presumably headed home. The family was known at the campground and the owner said, “They’re an ordinary family like you or I or apple pie. I swear on my grandmother’s bible, I never saw them with a drink in their hands.” She also said, “She was fine. The same old Diane she was every weekend. The last words I said were, “Have a safe trip home.”
And that is also part of the mystery. Diane Schuler to others seemed to be totally different than a woman we now know was behind the wheel with an alcohol level twice the legal limit and with a “high number” of the active component of marijuana in her bloodstream. She was a woman her brother and sister-in law had trusted with their daughters. A woman her husband had let drive off with their own children. He said she was an occasional pot smoker and social drinker but that does not in any way explain her behavior that horrible morning.
“I never saw her drunk since the day I met her,” he said. “She was the perfect wife. I’d marry her again tomorrow.”
But a friend of Schuler’s said the woman was a regular at a Long Island bar where she would often come in alone and knock back screwdrivers while she complained about her failing marriage and stressful job.
“For the last couple of months, she didn’t appear to be a happy woman,” Schuler’s drinking buddy said. “I wouldn’t say she was an alcoholic, but she liked her drinks.”
Schuler’s brother Warren Hance, whose three young daughters died in the crash, said, “This is the absolutely last thing that we ever would have expected… Because we have never known Diane to be anything but a responsible and caring mother and aunt, this toxicology report raises more questions than it provides answers for the accident.”
And a neighbor who lived across the street from the Schulers for seven years, told the New York Post, “We never saw [Diane] drunk… But who knows what really happens behind closed doors?”
And so this heartbreaking story makes us wonder. And it makes us afraid. How well do we know even those who, we think, we are close to us? Especially when we trust our children to their care.