Have you ever been in a car crash Zach?
I’ve been in two
Target parking lot
This week’s mystery involves a car crash. In fact an incredibly tragic car crash. At 9:30 July 26 of 2009 Diane Schuler along with her husband Daniel Schuler left the Hunter Lake Campground in Parksville, New York. Daniel rode alone in his pickup truck while Diane took her brother’s 2003 red Ford Windstar. Riding with Diane were her 5 year old son and 2 year old daughter along her her brother’s three daughters ages 8,7, and 5. Around 9:00 Diane’s brother Warren Hance received a call from his oldest daughter. She said everything was going well and they had had a great time on their trip and were looking forward to getting home.
Daniel left first with Diane following close behind. As they left they said goodbye to one of the campground’s co-owners who would later say that everything seemed fine. Daniel immediately started driving to their home in West Babylon, NY while Diane made a planned stop to get gas and breakfast for the kids. Diane then went to a mcdonalds in Liberty New York then to a Sunoco across the street. There is surveillance footage showed her at both locations and by all accounts everything seemed normal. The most disturbing thing so far is that the she chose to go to mcdonalds rather than the wendy’s across the street. Wendys.com/mysteriyes.
At 11:37 Diane called her sister in law Jackie Hance to tell her they were running late. According to Jackie they had a friendly conversation before Diane went back to driving.
A witness claims that at 12 that same day they saw a red minivan swerving between lanes along the route that Diane and the kids were supposed to be taking. According to the witness he saw a woman who appeared to be very focussed on driving the car. The witness also said the driver wasn’t drifting between lanes but rather changing rather aggressively and with, “some degree of precision”. Other witnesses reported seeing Diane on the side of the road at least two times with her hands on her knees as if she was vomiting.
At 12:55 a wrong number was dialed from Diane’s phone.
Around 1 pm there was call made to Warren Hance from Diane’s cell phone. This time it was one of Diane’s nieces calling to tell her father that her aunt Diane was having trouble seeing and speaking clearly. Diane then talked to Hance and said that she was disoriented and couldn’t see clearly. It’s probable at this time that the group had pulled into a pull-off area just past the Tappan Zee Bridge toll booths. Hance reportedly told Schuler to stop driving until he could come up and meet them. The call lasted about 2 ½ minutes and was ended abruptly. Around 1:10 there were 3 more calls from Diane’s phone that were all wrong numbers. At 1:15 tried to call Diane back but the call went to voicemail because at this point Diane’s phone had been left on a guardrail on the side of the road.
It’s not exactly clear the route they took from there, but the next thing we know happens at 1:33 two drivers call 911 after noticing Diane edging onto the northbound exit ramp of the Taconic State Parkway. The ramp was clearly marked with do not enter and one way signs. Within the next minute there were four more 911 calls from people who reported a car driving the wrong way down the parkway going ~75-85mph. The van then went almost two miles further down the highway before colliding head on at ~1:35pm. It was estimated that Diane was traveling at somewhere near 85 mph on impact. Diane, her daughter, and two of her nieces were dead at the scene of the crash, along with the three men in the car they crashed into. The third niece and Diane’s 5 year old son suffered severe injuries and were rushed to the hospital. The niece died later that day and Diane’s son sustained broken bones and severe head trauma.
So what happened?
I think first we should talk about who Diane Schuler was. She was a mother of two who worked a well respected banking job in which she made over $100,000 a year. She was a headstrong person who, by all reports, was a happy and healthy woman. People who knew her claimed that they had never seen her in a drunken state (over 50 people attested to that fact).
With that it mind it came as quite a shock that a toxicology report showed that Diane had a blood alcohol content of 0.19 or approximately 10 drinks. The report also said that she had high levels of THC which indicated marijuana use. This, compounded by the fact that a large bottle of vodka had been in the passenger seat would probably indicate that she was simply drunk driving. However, this was completely dismissed as a possibility by anyone who knew Diane who insisted that she would never have done something like that. There was also testimony from the campground owner who said Diane seemed sober when she left as well as a gas station employee who said that they “knew for a fact that she wasn’t drunk when she came into the station” and several McDonald’s employees who didn’t see any signs of intoxication when ordering her food.
One theory put forward by Diane’s family is that she must have suffered a stroke, aneurysm or embolism. Diane had been suffering from an abscess in her mouth for several weeks that had reportedly caused her a great deal of pain. She also had an unidentified lump in her leg. This was ruled out by officials after an autopsy showed no sign of a stroke, aneurysm or heart attack.
Another theory is that the pain Diane was suffering lead her to a point of delirium in which she became confused and in an attempt to alleviate the pain she was feeling tried to self medicate with alcohol. Perhaps this lead to her drinking more than she had intended and she simply began to spiral out of control.
I don’t know how much I really believe either of those theories. (Talk about closeted alcoholism)
Diane’s mother left at a very early age
She was the only girl in the family.
She never reconciled with her mother even though her brothers did
She was a very private person who never talked about her emotions
She was a perfectionist
No matter what happens and no matter who you want to cast blame on I think, at the end of the day, this is just a horrific tragedy.