Aunt Diane

A week or so ago, I read an article about a couple that lost their three girls in a drunk driving accident.  The husband’s sister, Diane, was driving at the time.  They are pregnant and there’s a documentary out about the accident.  It was on tv today so I checked it out.

Diane Schuler was driving her nieces, her son and her daughter home from a campsite in New York.  The co-owner of the campsite said Diane seemed sober.  She stopped at McDonalds and the workers there said she seemed sober but talkative.  She wanted OTC pain medication at a gas station but they didn’t sell any.  Odd considering they sell all sorts of other stuff but okay.  Between the gas station and the accident, numerous witnesses said she was driving erratically.  Honking.  Tail gating.  Switching lanes.  One couple saw her exit to a rest stop and get out like she was vomiting.  But didn’t see her when they left.  At one point, she stops and calls her brother and says she isn’t feeling well.  He tells her to stay put and he’ll come get her.  For some reason, she leaves her cell phone on the railing and drives off.  One of the girls calls their dad and says their aunt was having trouble seeing and speaking.

Then she drove the wrong way for 2 miles going at around 70 miles an hour.  She collided with another vehicle, head on.  That car hit another car.  In the end, 8 people were dead.  Diane.  Her three nieces.  Her daughter.  And three men in the other vehicles.  Everyone was perplexed as to why someone would do something like that.  That is, until the toxicology came back and for most people watching the case unfold, their questions were answered.  She had a .19 alcohol level.  The legal limit is .08.  That wasn’t all, she had a high THC level as well.  Drunk and stoned.

In the documentary, There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane, the story focuses around her husband Daniel.  He says there’s no way the toxicology is right.  Even though a second test was done and a test confirming the samples used for testing was from Diane, he’s convinced that she had a stroke or something involving a tooth ache.  In the burned van, there was a bottle of Vodka.  The husbands’s story has changed and personally, he’s either nutters or in denial.  He says that Diane frequently ferried the bottle of Vodka back and forth from their house and their weekend home to save money.  If it was an expensive vodka, I might agree.  But it’s the kind college students frequently made lava lamps from.

I’ve had first hand experience with an alcoholic.  A sneaky one.  I never saw her without a cup when I was growing up.  I wasn’t sure what to make of that since no other family members carried around their own cup.  My mom and I frequently fought over the water bottle but never cups.  I always wondered what was in that cup.  I also thought her perfume was odd.  Later, when I was old enough to know what booze was, I figured out that smell wasn’t perfume.  She was drunk.  She drove us kids around drunk too.  Her driving always scared me.  She’d drive with her knee while she was drinking from the cup and with her free hand, she’d turn around and smack my cousins for some odd game.  It turns out that game is drunk antagonistic mother game.  It wasn’t fun.  It was less fun when she turned it on me during a vacation and I was like, oh hell no.  There was exactly one time where I saw her sober.  She was sweet and nice and I found myself really liking her.  I haven’t seen that side of her since then.

The documentary interviewed friends that had cut off contact.  There were few people still in contact with her.  I felt a little like that was a big sign, pinpointing the time she started drinking.  Her husband, Daniel, first says she never smoked pot.  Then he says on a very rare occasion.  Her friend says it was known that Diane did smoke to help her sleep at night.  Most people interviewed said she was a super mom.  Always wanting to be perfect.  And I find myself thinking, most people who have the pressure of being perfect have to have an outlet and a lot of times, that’s substance abuse.

Daniel seems oddly in denial.  He says she wasn’t drunk when they left.  He was driving his own vehicle.  But just as addicts operate in the land of denial, so do their spouses and loved ones.  Their son was the only person to survive the accident.  I don’t know that he’ll ever really get the help he needs.  The dad seems not exactly the best person emotionally and the friend of Diane said he doesn’t really talk about his wife or his daughter with the son.

Evidence sways in the column that she was drinking often.  The high toxicology at 11AM.  Smoking early in the morning.  The THC levels show that she’d smoke within the hour of the accident.  That’s not a level that meshes well with smoking a little to go to sleep.  I do feel like her hair should be tested to prove drug and abuse history but so far, Daniel hasn’t gotten the funds together to exhume her body.  More supporting evidence, Diane drove the wrong way for 2 miles.  She wasn’t swerving.  She was driving in a lane, very determined.  That’s based on numerous witnesses.  I feel like a woman who rarely drank who was bombed to the point of blacking out, (around 10 drinks before noon) would be swerving and drifting and driving crazy.  Even when she was changing lanes and tailgating, witnesses said she did it very precisely.  That feels like a functional alcoholic right?

If she had a stroke, I don’t think she’d have the mental capacity to stop at a Mcdonalds, a gas station, a rest stop and a toll booth.  Her autopsy also would have shown a blood clot or a stroke because her body was in good condition.  And how would I know that?  Because the crackheads who made the documentary thought it would be appropriately shocking to show CLOSE UP pictures of her body after the crash, lying on the ground with her eyes half open.  Considering she hit a vehicle head on, she could have had an open casket.  So I think the autopsy information is accurate.

I learned more about Diane from googling her name than watching the film.  The time line was jumbled.  It had potential but I’m not sure what happened.  It felt like it would never end.  And of course, color me surprised that the husband has filed a lawsuit against New York, stating they failed to make the roads safe.  They should have had more/better Do Not Enter signs.  And the cherry on that lame lawsuit?  He’s suing the girl’s father because he owned the minivan Diane was driving.  Hey, it’s not enough that his wife killed their three little girls.  My ginormous sad feeling on this is because those girls were old enough to know what was going on for those two miles.  There is no doubt that they died terrified.  Diane didn’t just kill the girls and her own daughter, she scared the holy hell out of them before crashing head first into a vehicle and Daniel files a lawsuit against their father?

I cannot get over how someone could do that.  And the day after the documentary comes out.  He already got paid $100,000 for doing the film.  Capitalizing from someone’s death is horrid.  Capitalizing from children dying is even worse.  What is that teaching his own son?  Most people involved in the case have said openly that Daniel continuing to contest the toxicology results and filing this lawsuit and doing the film just keeps the wound open.  He needs to move on.  He needs to let everyone else move on.  Diane didn’t just destroy two families.  The cars she encountered, the every day people who stopped to help during the accident, the man who pulled one of the girls out of the burning van, first responders, hospital personnel.  None of them will ever be able to forget what they saw.

Conclusion? Diane has secrets.  She had secret ways of dealing with stress.  If she couldn’t even tell friends that she was seeing a dentist and walked out of an appointment after having an abscess, I doubt she had any outlet.  All that had to go somewhere.  The alcoholic I know has more accidents than I can count on two hands.  Diane wasn’t just drunk.  She was incredibly high.  That combination, I can easily believe she got on the freeway going the wrong way.  Nicole Richie did it too.  And I think in her drunken and high state, she was driving like she thought she should drive.  Very fast and in her own lane.  Eventually, she met up with a vehicle that had no time to dodge her.  I cannot imagine what the kids were thinking while they were watching their aunt driving on the wrong side of the highway.  I don’t even want to.  It’s horrific.  While I’d like to see toxicology on her hair, I think it’s going to show that she had another side to her.

Intoxicated driving isn’t new.  It happens all the time.  I cannot count how many times a week I see friends posting about drinking and then driving.  They think a few beers or a few glasses of wine is just fine to drive.  It pisses me off beyond words because the mother of a childhood friend was killed by a drunk driver.  He had 11 DUIs and was still allowed to get completely hammered at a bar and drive out of there.  She and my mother took us to the New Kids On The Block concert.  My mom keeps the ticket in her wallet.  It’s been years and it’s still hard to imagine that she’s gone.  Such a good person, taken away from the world because of one person’s selfish decisions.  And I see that constantly on Facebook.  When you say something to them, people get defensive.  My rule is if you have one drink, you do not drive.  When the day is done, I hope that Diane’s crash keeps at least a few people from making the same decisions.  I hope parents speak up about letting their kids drive with people who are known drinkers.  I hope parents ignore the uncomfortable feeling and explain to their kids why they can’t drive with Uncle so and so or Aunt so and so and come up with a plan on what to do if they do end up in a vehicle with them.  The girls knew enough to call their dad for help.  I think if the kids were told to get out of the car at the first chance they get and call for help, it would prevent another tragedy.

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