Driving 85mph on the wrong side of the road, Diane Schuler and seven others lost their lives when she fatally collided with an oncoming vehicle.
Receiving widespread attention due to the highly unusual circumstances of the accident, the mystery of why a seemingly capable woman came to such an unfortunate end left many unanswered questions.
The tragic case of Diane Schuler and the events on the Taconic State Highway in July of 2009 still captures attention and disbelief to this day.
Revisiting The 2009 Taconic State Parkway Crash
Revisiting the worrying events of that Sunday afternoon may prove difficult for some who've seen HBO's There's Something Wrong with Aunt Diane.
The 101-minute documentary details several witness testimonies and other concerning facts surrounding the horrific case. Capturing nationwide attention, the uncharacteristic actions of aunt Diane Schuler have astounded and evoked discourse among countless people.
How well do we know those closest to us? Was it just an accident or perhaps intentional? Could a stroke have been the reason for her frantic behavior behind the wheel? Speculation is rife.
Dr. Phil, Oprah, Larry King, and Steven King have all chimed in on the tragedy in their separate ways, with the latter writing a fictional story based on the events. Not his most tasteful, might we add.
Diane Schuler Was A Loving Mother
According to her husband, Daniel Schuler, Diane Schuler was a loving mother, aunty, and friend who had no prior history of unusual or erratic behavior. This is just one of the reasons this case remains so polarized.
Whether it be denial or deception, one thing was clear - Diane's internal struggle that day resulted in a heartbreaking loss of lives.
Leaving the Hunter Lake Campground on July 26th, 2009, 36-year-old Diane Schuler took to the road with her 5-year-old son, 2-year-old daughter, and three nieces (ages 5, 7, and 8) for their home in Long Island. Daniel Schuler took a particular vehicle with the family dog and intended to meet them at home.
After a short stop at a McDonald's, Diane continued to a gas station where she attempted to purchase painkillers, according to her husband and several others. Diane Schuler had been complaining of a toothache and is thought to be the reason she made the stop - though this still can't be verified.
Things became increasingly worse over the next two hours as Diane's behavior began to degrade rapidly.
The Incident On Taconic State Parkway
Multiple witnesses report seeing a red minivan driving frantically along New York's Interstate 86 and 87, claiming the vehicle was honking the horn, tailgating, and straddling two lanes. It's noted that Diane called her brother Warren Hance at 11:37 am (shortly after the worrying reports) and said they were delayed by traffic - perhaps concealing information on her well-being.
According to witness reports, Diane was later seen vomiting on the side of the road around 11:45 am.
Around 1 pm, one of Diane Schuler's nieces Emma, called her father, telling him that Diane was struggling to speak and see. These are when she says her awful last words, "There's something wrong with Aunt Diane."
Worrying news for any father, Hance told his sister to remain off the road until he came to meet them. This would be the last he would hear from his sister as she left her phone on the side of the road - purposefully or mistakenly, no one knows.
At 1:33 pm, Diane was spotted edging onto the Taconic State Parkway exit ramp. Entering a one-way lane, the police quickly began receiving multiple calls of a car going 75-85 mph on the wrong side of the highway.
What Happened To Diane Schuler?
This is when the situation becomes fatal. Aunt Diane's minivan fatally strikes another passenger vehicle by traveling 2.7 km up the parkway's northbound lane. Diane, her daughter, and three nieces all sadly passed away, along with the passengers of a 2004 Chevrolet - Michael Bastardi, his son Guy and friend Dan Longo.
Diane's 5-year-old son Bryan was taken to hospital and remained the only surviving passenger of Schuler's car. Shocked witnesses rush to help, pulling Diane and her family from the wreckage. A broken bottle of Absolut Vodka was also found by Diane - serving as damning evidence against the late aunt.
Despite Diane's husband's adamant belief she wasn't heavily intoxicated on the day of the accident, toxicology reports concluded by Westchester County examiners reveal Diane was way over the limit, with her blood alcohol content (BAC) coming in at 0.19%.
Diane also had high levels of THC in her system, confirming she was also high on marijuana while driving. Daniel Schuler has faced a fierce backlash from the family's of the victims for enabling his wife's capabilities that day.
The Mystery Remains
Daniel argued that his wife may have suffered from a medical issue, such as a stroke or embolism. Daniel continued to dispute his wife's intoxicated state to the anger of many.
One of the Bastardi family members stated, "it makes me angry he keeps denying it. Every time he does it, he brings it back for us."
New York State Police later reiterated the earlier findings of Diane Schuler's toxicology report, confirming she was indeed heavily intoxicated before the crash and wasn't caused by pre-existing medical conditions.
Jackie Hance, who lost all three daughters in the crash, took legal action against her brother-in-law, believing her daughters faced mental anguish and extreme horror during the ordeal. Creating a heart-wrenching divide between once loving family members, all legal action between parties has now ceased.
Theories About Diane Schuler
Theories of what happened that horrible day range from the believable to the absurd. Some speculate Diane suffered from substance abuse and hid it extremely well from her family. This could explain why she withheld information from her brother when he called.
Notably, Daniel had been aware of Diane's recreational activities in the past, later confirming to investigators that his sister used weed to help with insomnia in the past. Others think a mixture of alcohol, marijuana, and painkillers caused her to go into a confused state.
While some believe Diane may have been suicidal and made an impulsive decision - despite contradicting claims, she was always happy.
One Reddit theory suggests traveling 1.7km at high speeds in the opposite lane cannot simply be a lapse of judgment, nor a momentary mental break, which would indicate a much darker situation.
We would prefer to leave this case to the speculation of professionals. With so much still unknown, we hope that the victims' families finally get the answers they need. The tragic story of Diane Schuler and the lives she took that day won't be forgotten anytime soon.