Advertisement

On July 26, 2009, 36-year-old Diane Schuler drove to an incorrect path down the Taconic State Parkway in New York. Her minivan slammed into an SUV, bringing the deaths of Schuler, her little girl, her three nieces, and three travelers in the other vehicle. Paving the way to the accident, it seemed like Schuler was acting typically.

Diane Schuler and Husband Daniel Schuler
Diane and Daniel Schuler (Photo:  Moxie Firecracker Films /HBO Documentaries/Fair Use)

Be that as it may, when toxicology reports uncovered Schuler was intensely intoxicated at the hour of the accident, it appeared to be an open and shut instance of alcoholic driving. Schuler’s deadly accident added to the death of the Child Passenger Protection Act. In the territory of New York, it is currently a lawful offense to drive inebriated with a youngster in the vehicle.

Advertisement

Schuler’s enduring spouse, Daniel, went through years denying Schuler was intoxicated at the hour of the mishap and insisted she was an upstanding wife and mother. The HBO narrative There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane followed Daniel’s excursion to demonstrate Aunt Diane’s innocence. The film, be that as it may, brought up a bigger number of issues than it answered. Numerous theories proliferate with respect to whether Schuler intentionally caused the accident that slaughtered her relatives.

Day of The Accident

On July 26, 2009, Diane Schuler left her Hunter Lake Campground in a 2003 Ford Windstar that belonged to her brother. Riding with Schuler was her 5-year-old son, 2-year-old daughter, and her brother’s three daughters. A co-owner of the campground later said that Diane Schuler appeared sober when she departed.

Diane Schuler Newspaper front
Advertisement

Diane’s husband left the campground at the same time but in a different vehicle since he had a pickup truck with him and took the dog with him. One their way to home, Diane Schuler stopped at a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant and a Sunoco gas station in Liberty.

Chaos at Route 17

After leaving Liberty at around 11 a.m., Diane started traveling along Route 17/Interstate 86. Several witnesses later reported seeing a red minivan-driving aggressively on Route 17, including aggressively tailgating, flashing headlights, honking the horn, moving in and out of lanes, and straddling two lanes.

Calling her brother Hance

At 11:37 a.m. Diane called Hance, her brother and father of her three neices, from the van. She reportedly told him that they were being delayed by traffic.

Diane Schuler family
Diane Schuler (Photo: Moxie Firecracker Films/HBO Documentaries/Fair Use)

According to police reports, Diane was seen by witnesses at approximately 11:45 a.m. by the side of the road with her hands on her knees, as if vomiting; she was seen again in the same spot and same position a short time later.

Advertisement

Diane called her brother at 1 p.m. again, during the call one of her nieces reportedly told her father that aunt Diane was having trouble seeing and speaking clearly. Diane herself then talked to Hance and said that she was disoriented and could not see clearly.

Hance told her sister to stay off the road while he came to meet them, while on his way Hance called Diane multiple times but was left unanswered. For some reason Diane left her phone on the highway; it was later found on the highway by another motorist by the side of the road near a tollbooth.

Going the wrong way

Agents have not figured out what course Diane Schuler took from the extension to the Taconic State Parkway ramps near Briarcliff Manor. At 1:33 p.m., two drivers called 911 in the wake of seeing Diane’s van edging onto the northbound off-ramp of the Taconic State Parkway close Briarcliff Manor.

Schuler Family
Schuler Family (Photo:  Moxie Firecracker Films/HBO Documentaries/Fair Use
)

The finish of the off-ramp is set apart with two signs that read “Don’t Enter” and “One Way” at the convergence with Pleasantville Road. Inside the following moment, four progressively 911 calls were put by drivers who announced that a vehicle was traveling the wrong way down the parkway going around 75–85 miles (121–137 km/h).

The van traveled south for 1.7 miles in the parkway’s passing lane before colliding head-on with a Chevrolet Trailblazer which then struck another car.

Advertisement

Diane Schuler was traveling approximately 85 mph. Diane, her daughter and two of her niece were dead at the scene of the crash(the children did not appear to have been in car sears or even have had seat belts fastened), along with three men in the Chevrolet trailblazer(81-year-old Michael Bastardi, his 49-year-old son Guy, and their friend, 74-year-old Dan Longo). Diane’s severely injured niece and her 5-year-old son Bryan were taken to the hospital.

Diane Schuler Car
Diane’s crashed car

Two men who witnessed the accident and smoke coming out of the van ran to assist the passengers. In the wake of taking Diane out from the van, they saw an enormous broken Absolute Vodka Bottle by the driver’s side. They tried to get the kids out but noticed that they had no pulse. Since the youngsters conceivably were not seat belted in and put together, the men didn’t see Bryan stuck under another kid. Bryan was the only survivor of the mishap.

Investigation

The investigation of the collision drew nationwide attention, as Diane Schuler‘s husband disagreed with the conclusion that she was heavily intoxicated at the time of the crash.

The toxicology report was released on August 4 by Westchester County medical examiners which found that Diane Schuler had a blood-alcohol content(BAC) of 0.19%, with approximately six grams of alcohol in her stomach that had not yet been absorbed into her blood. Legal BAC limits for driving while intoxicated in New York is 0.08%.

The report also showed that Diane had high levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in her system, which means she could’ve smoked marijuana as recently as fifteen minutes before the crash.

Advertisement

Denying the Drugs

Daniel Schuler and his attorney Dominic Barbara denied initially that Diane did drugs or was drinking that weekend at the lake since there were children with them.

Daniel Schuler
Daniel Schuler (Photo: Moxie Firecracker Films/HBO Documentaries/Fair Use)

Daniel soon changed his story and consistently denied that his wife never “drank to access” or could have been drinking while driving that day.

When asked about the broken bottle of Vodka in the car, Daniel claimed that they always kept an old bottle in their camper and further stated that Diane packed for the camping trip so she might have moved the bottle into the van.

Advertisement

Daniel eventually admitted that he and his wife had been drinking during the camping trip but denied that Diane had anything to drink a day before the crash.

The Hunter lake campground co-owner was friends with the Schulers, spoke with Diane before she departed and he claimed that Diane Schuler appeared sober.

The gas station employee whom Diane asked for Tylenol also said: “[I knew] for a fact [that] she wasn’t drunk when she came into the station… She was fine, but she did ask for Tylenol.

Diane did not end up purchasing the painkiller, as the station was sold out of it. Then it was thought that Diane may have had an abscessed tooth, as she’d been seen rubbing her cheek — although she hadn’t complained of pain.

According to Daniel’s lawyer, none of the McDonald’s employees saw anything in Diane’s behavior to suggest that she was intoxicated. In fact, she had an extended conversation while ordering her food and orange juice.

Unless you believe that a woman who’s like a PTA mom of the year decides this is the day I don’t give a damn, I’m going to have eight or ten shots and smoke a joint in front of my kids and nieces, then something else had to happen,” said Daniel Schuler’s private investigator.

Daniel denied that his wife did drugs but told the investigators that his wife smoke marijuana only “occasionally,” but never to excess and only for insomnia. Later reports revealed a statement made by Daniel’s that claimed Diane smoked on a regular basis.

Advertisement

Daniel Schuler and Attorney Blamed Everything But Alcohol

In an attempt to prove that Diane had not been intoxicated Daniel and his attorney, Barbara issued a statement that Diane drove erratically due to a medical issue — such as a stroke — rather than intoxication.

Daniel Schuler and Dominic Barbara
Daniel Schuler and Dominic Barbara(Photo:  Moxie Firecracker Films/HBO Documentaries/Fair Use)

According to Barbara, Diane was obese for much of her life and suffered from diabetes, although various sources cite that Diane had gestational diabetes, which is a temporary condition related to a prior pregnancy.

Barbara also mentioned an abscess, that had persisted in her mouth for seven weeks before her death and a lump in her leg. The result of the autopsy conducted by a Westchester County medical examiner one day after the accident found that Diane had not suffered a stroke, aneurysm, or heart attack.

Hair test to determine drug history

Daniel and Barbara announced plans to exhume the body to perform the hair test and other examination after a forensic pathologist said that hair tests should be done to determine Diane’s drug history. Experts believed that the test was unlikely to produce any results as a test from two separate labs came up with exactly the same conclusion.

Daniel’s persistence in disputing his wife’s intoxication and drug use has been condemned by the family members of the three TrailBlazer victims.

When Daniel appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live to demand more testing of his wife’s remains, Longo’s brother Joseph issued a statement saying in part, “I want Daniel Schuler to know that he keeps inflicting more pain on all concerned once again [by] going to the media to try [to] paint a picture of a perfect wife and mother.”

Bastardi’s daughters appeared with their lawyer on NBC’s Today, during which they questioned Daniel’s culpability in enabling his wife’s substance abuse and called for him to undergo drug testing himself. “It makes me angry that he keeps denying it,” said Margaret Nicotina, Bastardi’s daughter. “Every time he does it, he brings it back for us. I just wish that he would just admit that she was drunk. Maybe if he knows what happened that morning, if they argued or anything, that would be the truth. He wants the truth. So do we.”

In July 2010, it was reported that Daniel had accepted a $100,000 offer from a film company to record his wife’s exhumation for a documentary.

Advertisement

The Crash may have been intentional

In spite of the implicating toxicology reports, Daniel Schuler has reliably kept up his significant other was “the casualty of an accident situation.” He portrayed Schuler as “an ideal mother and dependable individual.” Media outlets – notwithstanding the Bastardi family, who lost three individuals in the accident – refer to Schuler’s activities as “murder” and not a mishap.

Mike Bastardi Jr. lost his sibling, father, and companion in the lethal Taconic State Parkway crash, expressing: “This was the homicide of my family.”

A Reddit user speculates Diane Schuler intentionally crashed the vehicle and believes that:

I’ve done a lot of research into this incident. My takeaway was that Diane was an angry and depressed individual who got drunk and high to have the courage to take such a drastic measure and committed murder-suicide to lash out to her husband and family.

Advertisement

This incident contributed to Child passenger protection act

The Child Passenger Protection Law makes it a felony for anyone to drive intoxicated with a child in the car.  The proposal became known as Leandra’s Law, following the October 2009 death of 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, a passenger in a vehicle whose driver was drunk. The Child Passenger Protection Act was signed into New York law on November 18, 2009.

Despite the Schuler team’s efforts, investigators ruled the crash a homicide after claiming that the deaths were caused by negligent driving.

Daniel Schuler still refutes claims that his wife is anything short of the perfect woman. He recalls her as “reliable, trustworthy, honest” and denies her victim’s family claims that she was a murderer.

Daniel is still trying to prove there was a medical reason for her actions. “She was just nice, loving, kind, she bought cards for birthdays,” he said.

Advertisement
Advertisement