I finished watching the documentary, “There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane.” I feel sadness, curiosity, anger, and sympathy. The documentary is about the 2009 Taconic State Parkway crash that killed eight people and injured three in the town of Mount Pleasant, New York. Eight people died when a minivan, driven by 36-year- old Diane Schuler, traveled for 1.7 miles in the wrong direction until it collided head on with an oncoming SUV. The deaths included Diane Schuler, her baby daughter, her three nieces, and three people from the SUV, Michael Bastardi, Guy Bastardi, and their friend Dan Longo. The sole survivor in the crash was Diane Schuler’s son, Bryan.
Who is Diane Schuler?
Diane Schuler was seen by others who could do no wrong. She was a CEO Executive Accountant for Cablevision, she dressed her children to the nines and brought them to school on time, she prepared dinner for them after she came from work, and she hung out with her husband after he was done with his job. An outsider likely would see her as “Superwoman.”
There was darkness in Diane’s life. When she a young child, her mom left the family, and since she was the eldest, she took over the maternal role to her brothers. Watching the documentary, I sensed that Diane felt pressured to keep a strong front because she had many responsibilities, such as taking care of her brothers and taking care of the household. On top of that, she aimed to be a strong role model for them because her own role model left.
The toxicology report, released by the Westchester County medical examiners, found that Schuler’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.19, with six grams of alcohol in her stomach that had not been absorbed. It also was reported that she had high levels of THC in her system, and had likely smoked marijuana as recent as 15 minutes prior to the accident. Despite the toxicology report being done, Diane’s Schuler’s husband, Daniel, and his sister in law Jay, denied that she was intoxicated the day of the collision. They believe that she may have suffered from a medical condition such as a stroke, an embolism, or may have self-medicated as a result of a tooth abscess. Another toxicology test was done, and it had the same results as the original.
I can’t fathom the suffering still going on as a result of the accident. Three families were affected, the Schulers, the Bastardis, and the Longos. They lost loved ones in an unexpected accident that is considered one of the worst the Taconic State Parkway has ever experienced.
I’m annoyed by Diane’s husband, Daniel, because his grief consumes him to the point where he is unable to emotionally care for their son, Bryan, the surviving accident victim. At the beginning of the documentary, he doesn’t have Bryan in therapy because he believed that he had everything under control. His mother died recently. How can a young boy be “fine,” knowing that he will never see his mother or three cousins again? If I were in his position, I’d be having meltdowns and throwing tantrums right away! Towards the end of the documentary, Daniel relents and gets Bryan into therapy after meltdowns he had at school and pressure from his sister Jay and other relatives.
Media outlets such as Oprah, Dr. Phil, and the Larry King live picked up on the tragedy. Thomas Ruskin, the private investigator hired by the Schuler family, spoke on their behalf. Viewing the interview, I felt that Oprah was unconvinced by Ruskin. She expressed this sentiment by the questioning tone in her voice, stating that family members have secrets from family members, and asking if he thought that Daniel Schuler may be in denial. When I watched the Larry King interview, King stayed neutral and didn’t give off any hints of his bias.
Daniel and Jay Schuler said on Larry King Live that they won’t stop defending Diane until her name gets cleared. This wasn’t the Diane they knew, and they felt that she would want them to fight for her until evidence comes out that she wasn’t intoxicated the day of the crash.
I’m sympathetic to the Schuler’s plight, but I’m also sympathetic to the other victims’ families’ plight as well. I don’t know how I would react if someone I loved died in a car crash and killed others along the way. I can imagine I’d be in shock, but that’s the only feeling I can come up with because this is an abnormal situation. Were there signs that Diane may have had a problem? Daniel did admit that she did drink and smoke pot, but she drank during social occasions and smoked to battle insomnia. Perhaps Diane was hiding a drinking problem, and hid it so well that her family members and friends were oblivious to the problem. Maybe she drank because it was a time where she could let go of being “perfect.”
The other victims’ families’ grief and anger are warranted. I’d be vengeful that my loved ones died in an accident that they had no control over. If I were in any of the Bastardi’s or Longo’s relatives’ shoes, I’d want Daniel Schuler to stop clearing his late wife’s name on the media so that healing can happen. I can only imagine the “what if’s” the families’ experienced since the accident happen. What if the three nieces didn’t ride with Aunt Diane? What if Aunt Diane drove herself? What if Michael Bastardi, Guy Bastardi, and Daniel Longo went camping a different day?
It’s hard to believe that someone who was “Superwoman,” failed, but that’s what happened. Trying to retest and to get results that match one’s personal beliefs isn’t going to help. Even if the Schulers retest and the report shows that Diane suffered from a medical ailment, it doesn’t change what happened. Children died. Innocent bystanders died.
I hope that Schulers get the peace they badly need, whether it’s from a toxicology report, religion, relatives, etc. Their number one focus should be on making sure Bryan is doing well, not spending money and appearing on the media to clear Diane’s name.
Photo Courtesy: By Daniel Case (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons