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There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane

Lately, I’ve been pretty far from my original subject matter of crying. It’s been important for me to explore other kinds of genuine emotional expression, and I’ve enjoyed my thought travels in that regard. Last night, however, simply by accident, I ended up watching the HBO documentary film There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane. It’s a truly tragic story that you may remember from original news reports after July 26, 2009, when Diane Schuler drove the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway, causing a horrible traffic accident. She killed herself, her daughter, her three nieces, and the three men in the vehicle her van hit head-on, and injured her son, who was the only survivor in those two vehicles.

The case is indeed one that has no sure answers: There is no denying that Diane Schuler had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 with more undigested alcohol in her stomach. Her blood also contained THC, indicating that she’d been smoking marijuana. Her family—and the documentary—make the argument fairly convincingly that this was completely unlike her, in fact, unbelievable. Both she and one of her nieces had called her brother from the road and said that something was wrong, that she wasn’t feeling well, and she had stopped, apparently sober, to try to buy some pain relievers that the convenience store didn’t carry. They believe that she must have had some other kind of health emergency first—likely a stroke caused by an abscessed tooth. But her autopsy supposedly ruled that out even before the toxicology results came out.

Watching this film is hard, and there is no uplifting ending, so it made me think not only about suffering but about narrative, and the attractions and pitfalls of nonfiction. It’s instructive to compare the documentary, even with its clear sympathy for Diane Schuler, to the fictionalized version in Law & Order’s episode “Doped.” In that version, the police end up proving that its fictional driver had been doped with alcohol in a smoothie provided by someone else and with propofol, an anesthesia drug, in her asthma inhaler. It turns out that one of her colleagues at a large pharmaceutical company has drugged her because she intends to blow the whistle on a bad product.

The fictional TV show is very straightforwardly satisfying: the mother ends up being entirely faultless, her husband it turns out did know her well in his insistence that she didn’t drink, the bad guys are identified and punished, there is a clear explanation for why these terrible events occurred. At the end of the story, we may have sorrow, but we don’t have any questions. They’ve all been answered.

Of course, that is a TV tradition more than it is a habit of great fiction. And most great fiction leaves us with many unanswered questions. Most great fiction is more like nonfiction than TV episodes are. I need only mention Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Think of anything that William Faulkner wrote, especially that ending of Absalom! Absalom! wherein Quentin protests that he doesn’t hate the South and we are left with the same question he is—what his relationship with the South really is and will be. Great fiction doesn’t try to erase the mystery that comprises actual human experience for the sake of a tidy story.

Yet it is true that one of the great difficulties of writing creative nonfiction is that life doesn’t always follow clear paths. The debate in the Schuler case goes back and forth: Are the people who have lost people (Schuler’s brother and his wife, the families of the men killed in the other car) simply looking for a way to file this event in the “explained” file so they can move on? Are they too eager to condemn? Or are her husband and another sister-in-law in denial about what she was capable of? Lawsuits and counter-suits are being filed, and that’s tragic in itself. The whole question of how and why people respond so variously to one event floats in the air as unanswered as the cause of the accident.

For me, when a woman who is not generally much of a drinker and only smokes pot to get to sleep at night is determined to have been smashed and totally stoned at midday with a carful of children she loved, it’s easy to believe that something else was going on. There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane demonstrates that she was a woman who might very well be reluctant to ask for help if she was ill and might think that she could just tough it out until she got home. She had been self-medicating her insomnia for years, and she might have self-medicated herself to death if she were in pain.

Having had that extremely painful hemorrhagic stroke in 2011, I can imagine it. I rode the bicycle a mile and a half home with my head pounding as though being repeatedly hit with a nail gun. I didn’t know what else to do, though I had a cell phone and my husband could have called for help. I am very glad that I was not driving a car at the time, and I am a person not averse to medical help, so I can imagine a person like Diane Schuler trying to ignore her situation and carry on.

Having also had more than one serious medical situation that has no clear explanation, I can also believe that something happened to Diane Schuler that her autopsy didn’t detect. If they can’t always get to the bottom of things when you’re alive to tell the tale, it seems to me that with someone dead, there is a lot that’s easily missed in the body. Once the toxicology report came in, there was no interest or motivation in pursuing anything else. Those who wanted one had an explanation, and it was that Schuler was an irresponsible drunk, in spite of all the evidence of her life to the contrary. In some ways that seems to me like a fictionalizing tendency, or I should say, an oversimplifyingly fictional one just as much as the wholesome-mother version on Law & Order.

That doesn’t mean that I am satisfied by There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane. It starts out with the same optimistic tone of any whodunit. But by the end its insistence on the unknowability of what happened is appealing at an intellectual level, but devastating at an emotional one. It’s the kind of movie where you don’t know quite what to do with yourself when it’s over. I myself remain unsure whether that’s a flaw in the writing and arranging of the documentary or whether it’s realistic and good. It might feel just a little too much like life. But I know I won’t forget it.

45 responses »

  1. I’ve watched the documentary a couple of times now and I know what you mean. There is sadly no resolution or clarification. Life’s like that isn’t it? More questions than answers.

    The son of one of the victims in one of the cars she hit put his own website together and wrote his own book. It has more information and some strong opinions about the situation and the documentary. You might find it interesting and – just like the film – profoundly tragic.

    • This is very interesting because I ALSO just happened to stumble on this documentary and found myself bothered by it on many levels. I, too, have had some serious medical problems and refused help at the time because I’ve been so used to dealing with stuff on my own. I don’t think we’ll ever really know what happened in this case and to me, that’s actually more awful than finding out she was deliberately intoxicated and stoned. I think this case touches moms alot because we all like to be strong and powerful on our own without needing help from anyone and that, in reality, is the most disturbing part of this case for me. That she could have put those kids in danger when she loved them all so much is just perplexing and confusing.

      All we can do as moms is just hope that in future situations women in the same position make a different choice and ask for help. But who knows, perhaps she deteriorated so rapidly she just simply did not realize how bad she was and how badly the situation had changed.

      God bless all mommies and daddies and especially the little angels created in situations like this. I believe they are special, even for angels, and are created to watch over us all in extraordinary circumstances.

      • Amen…God bless you as well. You seem an angel to those kids and adults and to me.
        I just stumbled onto this documentary as something else was supposed to air on that channel (CNN) of all places. It turned out to be an HBO Documentary, on CNN Presents.
        I’m speechless and commenting only enough to thank you all on this website I only discovered this instance. Wow! I don’t know how this documentary got so into my head.
        One of the most tragic movie/documenteries, I’ve ever viewed.
        I pray for everyone involved, especially Aunt Diane, et al.
        I’m still crying, numb & in shock with what I watched. My dvr recorded the the right channel but gave me different programming. I just got drawn in to it, in less than 5 minutes, as I was preparing to stop dvr & delete. Wow…hope I sleep tonight. Sad and scary, with unanswered questions.

    • Thank you so much for the insight. I just saw the doc again after 2yrs and apparently nothing but lawsuits have resulted from this horrible tragedy. It’s all so “unfinished”.

  2. Thanks for the link, Carla. I looked at the website, and it’s painful for many reasons. I don’t know that I’ll choose to immerse myself in the fellow’s book if the website is any indication of its tone, direction, and quality of thinking. I do understand the man’s pain in the face of the tragedy, but his certainty seems unfounded to me, even in what he presents to bolster his cause.

    One reason I give the HBO documentary a little more credence is that, although it represented the opinions of Daniel Schuler and his sister-in-law Jay the most, it did present the other opinion (that Diane must have been a terrible alcoholic). It was done by an outside party, and that influence shows as there is some balance in it. Not that a person who has lost a loved one should or could be impartial, but that journalistic ideal is sometimes a good thing. My heart goes out to Michael Bastardi, but he seems to me to be lashing out in his pain rather than really asking what happened.

    Have you read his book? Do you find it or his website convincing?

  3. Two things that I didn’t mention in the original post:

    1) I was struck by how the Newsday article linked to above notes that the New York State Police said that what happened sounded like a case of low blood sugar in a diabetic. Some witnesses noted that Schuler was staring straight ahead and not weaving as drunk drivers usually do. Supposedly her niece and/or her son reported that she couldn’t see. When a diabetic has a low blood sugar, the brain may begin to cut off non-vital functions including eyesight. I have had this happen to me before, and it is completely disorienting. Schuler was not on insulin, so this is not what happened to her, but it did make me lean toward the idea that she might have had some kind of stroke that impaired her vision and earlier had caused a severe headache that she might have tried to self-medicate. All insulin-dependent diabetics live in fear of being mistaken for a drunk while having a low blood sugar, and from time to time the authorities actually kill one of us by letting a low blood sugar go untreated. Because law enforcement officials deal so much with drug and alcohol abuse, they are very quick to conclude that’s the sole cause of erratic behavior.

    2) Whether Schuler was in her right mind when she made the decision to drive while under the influence, or she was already impaired in some way, either way she made a terrible mistake of judgment. Even if she was ill, she should have pulled off the road and tried to get help instead of turning to drugs and alcohol. When one is ill or in pain, however, it is very easy to make such a mistake. I think of the difference in reactions to this event and to actor Heath Ledger’s death. Ledger overdosed on sleeping pills, pain killers, and anti-depressants. When that occurred, I remember feeling very sympathetic to his confusion because I had been suffering a long bout of pain and insomnia. I could envision Ledger’s dilemma–always thinking that just one more pill would allow him to sleep, not wanting to take too much but feeling stressed at all that would face him the next day, tossing and turning in a downward spiral of panic. I could see him losing track of how much he had already taken. These things really do make you lose your mind.

    Ledger, of course, did not have the safety of automobile passengers in his hands, and so the consequences of his actions, though sad, did not take others’ lives.

    I do believe that people should be generally held responsible for their actions, but once they are dead we should forgive them. There but for the grace of God go the rest of us.

  4. I found the website interesting and angry. A son trying to honour his father. (Canadian spelling!) I agree that the documentary seemed balanced. As balanced as one can be in light of the horribleness of this tragedy. I feel for the family and all the “what if”s that must run through each of their minds. I’m a mom and an aunt. I’ve had my car full of kids. You’re right. There but for the grace of God…

  5. Great entry!

    I wholeheartedly sympathize with your anxiety about finding a narrative form for nonfiction when real life is more evasive, in terms of what we know, than fiction tends to be, even literary fiction that leaves the reader with a satisfying number of unanswered questions.

    The epistemologically neat conclusion to the Law and Order episode inspired by this confusing real life event is even scarier if we keep in mind that, overwhelmingly, L&O was what must be considered a good television show.

  6. Hey, John, thanks. Agreed that L&O was a pretty good TV show. I think that it’s version was a kind of wish fulfillment. Nothing wrong with that unless you take it for reality, right?

  7. At the end, Diane’s husband in the documentary came across as difficult. He was not easily persuaded to get his son counselling – desperately needed counselling. His mantra was more about accepting the past happened and just moving on. Initially I thought his coldness was a sad weakness, but after some contemplation, with so many gaping unanswered questions, maybe his determination to detach might ultimately be a strength.

    • Agreed, Carla. I thought that Daniel Schuler came across as terribly depressed. Totally understandable–he lost his wife and daughter and now has to take care of an injured son who has had a brain injury. On top of that he has to contend with constant vilification of his dead wife. I don’t know how someone finds a way to grieve in all that, and I hope he’ll find a way to heal with or without therapy of his own. He’s lucky to have his sister-in-law to help.

      It’s too bad that all those lawsuits are going back and forth between various parties, and that’s not a good way to move on. I have a friend who once worked as an attorney for the state of New York. She defended the state against primarily two kinds of lawsuits–prisoners claiming to have been mistreated and those claiming their (or deceased family members’) traffic accidents on road conditions. Most of these latter cases were futile attempts to lay blame somewhere outside the driver. One involved a case of a woman who had been driving too fast on a wet road. She survived, but her two sons were killed, and she couldn’t face the fact that her speed and the weather had been the primary causes of the accident. My friend told me that the main thing she had learned in this job was to slow down when the weather is bad. But I think we can also say that there are some terrible things that happen where blame is useless.

  8. I know exactly what happened to Diane that day. Went to McDonalds, got an orange juice, was a sunny day, kids gettin on her nerves by now….empty stomach…mmm vodka in the back seat, let’s just have a drink…everyone knows that vodka and orange juice just doesn’t hit you instantly…hmmm need more alcohol to numb this effin ride home…..BAMMMMM vodka hits her on the back of her head like a hammer! Went from cruisin high and buzzed on a sunny afternoon to this: BLACKOUT! She has no idea what the “F” is going on cuz when you’re in a blackout, you are DONE! No memory or reality will bring you back… YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON…PERIOD! So please Schuler Family you must get out of denial…IMMEDIATELY! Very sad but true: Diane blacked out from drugs and alcohol…

  9. There is a fine line between buzzed and blackout….unfortunately I’ve been to both places in an instant….God Bless….It’s a sad sad story

  10. Please don’t hate me for my response…..I just know that’s what happened, I have lived it and I definitely don’t want this to happen to anyone else! GOD Bless the Schuler family, but, please, OWN this, K?

    • Dear Anita,

      Of course I don’t hate you for your response. What you say may very well be true. It is just that there seems to be no evidence that Diane Schuler was the kind of person who casually drank behind the wheel of a car and that therefore there might have been some other factor. It seems that the situation is ultimately unknowable. But I certainly respect your opinion and wish you only well and that you may someday recover from the pain that you feel.


      • Dear Lisa,
        Thank you for your kind words. I saw the documentary and it really left me in shock!..I sympathize with with the family and I guess this story is so traumatic, it just left me in a place where I tried to reason with what may have happened…so very sad and I am so sorry.

  11. When the question was asked if Diane smoked Marijuana, you could tell that the husband was embarrassed and ashamed to admit that, and he really tried to downplay it.
    To me, that revelation tells me what I need to know. She self medicates. But, in the eyes of those around her, it is OK because she is in pain. They don’t view it as abuse.
    Maybe she was in pain, and she simply did what she always has, self medicate. Did she smoke during the camping trip? Possibly, which would be sad in itself. However, despite what type of pain she may have been experiencing, based on the medical evidence, and based on the medical opinions, she was WASTED and driving those kids. I am not 100% convinced that it was the first time that ever happened. But, because the the family seems more interested in making sure we all know how great Diane was (and, despite the fact that she may have turned to alcohol and drugs to relieve her pain doesnt make her a bad person) they may very well be hiding the real truths.

  12. What the hell happened to you that night, Diane?

  13. I keep having nightmares about this

  14. I don’t think Diane had any medical problem at the time of her death because they did not find a stroke in the autopsy. You can find the autopsy and police reports online and nothing indicated any stroke, brain issues etc. I think what happened is her husband is a child much like his mom stated in the documentary and leaves diane to do everything sort of how now he leaves his sister Jay to do everything. If I go on a family trip and we take separate cars, my fiancee follows me or I follow him. We don’t go off alone. Have you ever taken a trip with small children let alone that many small children? It can be VERY frustrating. Her husband should have been following her and assisted with breakfast at McDonalds. I think there was some issues going on that we do not know about and to make himself feel better about the issues he is trying to clear her of being a drunk etc. I sort of feel she premeditated this. The trip should not have taken that long and some say she was driving in circles. Whether that is true or not who knows. She also was seen vomiting. Why doesn’t her husband ever call her to check in on the drive? That really shocks me. We always keep in touch on the road in case of emergencies. I blame much of this on her husband even though she is the one who made those tragic choices. There really is no winner in the end of this story but I don’t think Diane is innocent by any means.

    • I do not condone drinking and driving, smoking pot and driving or anything of that nature. However, I also do not believe in the infallibility of the medical world. I woke up one morning last November with a headache that felt like I’d been shot in the head only to be told at the ER that there was nothing wrong with my CT scans or anything else. Three days later, on Thanksgiving, I woke up in the morning, felt weird, went back to bed and was awakened by my son in the early evening having had him try to wake me up all day. By that point I couldn’t really make myself understood and he was so worried he wanted to call 911, but I refused. He’s 18 and a strong kid, but he was scared. SOMETHING had happened to me, but because I am the kind of person who figures I know better, I didn’t go to the ER until a day later. I then spent four days in the hospital being taught how to give myself insulin, etc, because my blood sugar and blood pressure were so bad they wouldn’t let me go home.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is, yes, the level of alcohol in Diane’s blood and the undigested alcohol indicate she was drinking and driving and if she did this consciously with her kids and other people’s kids in the car, she was WRONG. I just have a problem with such a decision being a conscious “screw you I’m doing it” action on her part. It just doesn’t ring as normal for her, to me. We will never know what happened that day because the one survivor who might shed light on the situation was too small and too traumatized after to really explain anything. And as young as he was, he might not have really noticed anything wrong anyhow.

      All we can do is hope this case makes other moms and dads stop and think before they make such a decision for themselves. Please, God, let it be a warning to others. It just has to be. Because nothing like this should happen EVER.

  15. The most telling scene in the documentary was when the sister-in-law went outside to smoke a cigarette and looked at the camera and said that no one in her family knew she smoked but thanks to the cameras they will now… Also it was strange that a gas station store didn’t have pain medication. I’ve always thought the attendant either didn’t remember correctly or wasn’t truthful regarding what she was looking for.

    • I thought that part was very telling too. Everyone had secrets. I think Diane could have had many secrets… I think she kept a lot of things in the closet.

  16. I have seen the HBO documentary on this most tragic accident. What everyone commented on about Diane Schuler was more telling than they realized. She was aggressive,bossy,controlling,secreative. All of those characteristics lead to a person with many secrets. Her sister-in-law stated when she was asked by Diane to be a godmother, ” OMG, she likes me”! I think it was obvious Diane did not display her like or love for people. Her rudeness in dealing with people she didn’t know, reaching over and blowing the horn when someone else was driving are signs of someone trying very hard to stay in complete control because their life is unraveling. Everyone that demands complete control especially when married eventually resents the lack of responsibility of the other spouse. Even though Diane Schuler came across as ‘ the boss’ every woman wants to be around a strong supportive man at some point. Danny and Jay Schuler contradicted themselves throughout docu and outright lied about not getting second Autospy report results. Jay S said they had never heard back from private investigator after all the $$ they gave him. When he returns her phone call Jay states she was told not to answer the phone if it was him.
    Tragically Danny Schuler is ONLY thinking of himself. He is an adult child not wanting any type of responsibility. His life was made up of driving around parks at night for a job,hunting, fishing, TV,and camping. In his own words,’Diane did it all’. Now that she is not here he is sueing everyone he can think of to compensate HIS loss. I feel so very sorry for his son. I think he will grow up very angry if he remains with his father. I wouldn’t doubt he will give him up if he loses all his lawsuits which I hope he does.
    This was a sensless loss beyond words. Drinking heavily by women especially young mothers has become a rite for all the supposed stress in their lives. Leading to on-line drinking clubs,etc. Has this tragedy not taught them anything?

    • Hi, Judith,

      What fascinates me the most about this tragic case is the need that we all feel to find answers when there are none. Whether we are inclined to read the clues as blaming Diane or to read them with less certainty, we all wish that we could know what happened exactly–or why people behave irrationally–in order to lay it to rest somehow.

      The things you say about Danny Schuler seem to me, however, to be way overstepping the bounds of what you know. No one knows what another person is thinking. I’m not saying that his behavior has been faultless, and I have not continued to follow the lawsuits, so I really have no idea, but unless you are close to the family and have intimate knowledge of these things, then neither do you, really. Obviously, you have reacted to things in him that set you off, but I wonder why you feel such a need to judge the man so harshly. Perhaps he reminds you of some “adult child” that causes problems in your own life. I don’t know, but there are many possible reasons for his behavior, as far as I can tell, and when we make stuff up about someone, we do not only do himself but ourselves a disservice.

      What I think we need in situations like this is compassion for everyone, even when some of them are at fault and have to pay the legal consequences. Diane did not live to pay the legal consequences, so people are looking more and more widely for someone to blame. But does retribution help anyone here? Certainly not those dead children, and certainly not their remaining family members. Too sad.

    • You ,make some very good points in your post. It has given me alot to think about that I did not consider before. Thank you. As grim as it is, I think the more thought and consideration this case is given the better.

    • In some ways I agree with you Judith.. Aunt Diane was not a saint, she was fallable, and the fact that Danny and Jay keep insisting on painting her as a saint and their deep denial has caused a deep rift with Jackie Hance who lost all of her kids, she doesn’t like how they’re making excuses for Diane.

  17. Let’s not forget that Diane was abandoned by her mother at a young age. This had to have a profound effect on her. Maybe she thought there had to be something wrong with her if her own mother would leave her, hence her need to be perfect and controlling in everything she did. Her husband sounds like someone who was only too happy to have a wife do everything so he didn’t have to do it himself. A perfect storm….

  18. its a sad story, if she was a diabetic her blood sugar would have risen from the alcohol cause alcohol turns to straight sugar in the blood stream therefore i do believe she was disoriented due to her sugar being to high. i have seen this cause my whole family has diabetes. and i think once the toxicology report came back they just stopped looking for anything because they decided she was drunk. there will probably be no closure on this one for either family. 😦

  19. Retest her blood for Ambien! The documentary said it was on her list of medications! Is this the only country whose people do not know the dangerous effects of this drug? According to its own producers, Ambien CAUSES some people to ACT, not sleep. It has effected people even if they have taken it the night before. Or she could have mistaken it for a pain pill and taken it that morning. I thought of Ambien as soon as I heard the title of the documetary–and sure enough. There it was on her list of medications. Ambien producers tell you on their warning sheet that some people eat, drink, cook, sleep-walk and sleep-drive after taking this drug. Why is it still on the market! Look up the case of Secretary of Commerce Bryson who took Ambien then smashed into the same car twice while stopping to talk briefly to the occupants. Or look up the case of Kerry Kennedy who took Ambien then hit a truck, ripped the tire off her car and kept driving. Diane’s case is typical of sleep-driving–even her mannner of driving, looking straight ahead and not reacting to other drivers.

    • This has been bothering me since I watched this documentary a few months back. How come no one has talked about the level of Ambien in her system? That should be relevant enough to say there was none in her system, but I have not even heard that. What if Daniel and Diane were up a little late, having a few drinks around the fire, and she decided to take an Ambien at 1 or 2 am? Could that have caused to be in an Ambien fog all day, which could have led to this tragic accident? I have a friend who told me she got out of bed on Ambien, naked, walked through her house while it was filled with her son’s friends, went in the kitchen, tried eating. Her son got her back in bed and till this day, she remembers none of this! I like so many others, want some answer, some closure. I find it so hard to believe someone would do something like this on purpose!

      • The Ambien Rx was YEARS old as that list of meds that Jay read over in the doc was a complete history of all the meds Diane had ever filled for at least the previous 5 years – if you look closely, the Ambien was prescribed Before her pregnancy & prenatal vitamins. Furthermore, the Tox Screen on Diane’s blood & all her other bodily fluids & tissue samples showed ZERO, No Trace of Ambien or any other drug besides the THC & metabolites of marijuana & a copious amount of alcohol.

        Finally – PLEASE DROP THE DIABETES LINE! She had GESTATIONAL diabetes during a pregnancy which is Totally Different than chronic, systemic diabetes. It ONLY occurs during pregnancy & has zero correlation to Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. In addition, her blood sugar at death was in the NORMAL range for a person at or after death. Glucose readings at or after death are NOT reliable indicators of disease due to the profound changes that occur at death which affect blood glucose levels.

        The ONLY LEGITIMATE question that has been raised is the issue of the tooth abscess since – according to the autopsy – her intact teeth were not examined & a forensic odontologist did not examine Diane’s body, tissue samples or the autopsy records. She had a clinical history for the abscess that was recent before her death and no one examined her teeth/gums/jaw other than to describe broken teeth from the impact laying on the tongue.

      • You seem to have knowledge beyond the usual public knowledge, and I sense the frustration you’ve had in dealing with these issues for these past years.

        I never implied that Diane Schuler had diabetes. I only meant to say that I can imagine a situation where someone gets out of control based on a physical ailment, whatever that ailment might be. I do want to note, however, that, from what I understand, it’s not all that easy to determine what “normal” blood glucose at death would be. In addition, there are many conditions that can cause hyperinsulinemia or other bio-chemical problems. Obviously, I am not in any position to know what the quality of her autopsy was, and clearly once her alcohol level was determined, the police didn’t feel a need to look much further.

        I will say that it’s entirely possible she was just drunk. I hate to say it, but I do understand that’s true. People get in cars and drive drunk every day, and that’s a tragedy that’s much more common than some strange other physical ailment happening.

      • Thank you for your kind reply. I am in the medical field and it does frustrate me to read pages of comments on every article pertaining to this tragedy that focus on straw arguments such as prescriptions dispensed years prior and confusing a temporary, pregnancy-only *Condition* of Gestational Diabetes with with the *Chronic Disease* that is Diabetes Mellitus (Type 1 or Type 2). It’s the same as claiming a drowning victim died from a bout of Influenza they had as a child. Everything is irrelevant but the Alcohol and, to a lesser degree the marijuana (due to the much lower amount in the blood/tissues/organs & it’s lesser affect on the body & brain – cognitive functions – especially compared to the alcohol). Although I rarely agree with him, this is the opinion of Dr. Warner Spitz & he made nearly the identical statement in the HBO Doc. to Daniel & Jay Schuler.

        The intriguing and maddening mystery is WHY did Diane ingest any alcohol (& marijuana) at all that day and moreso ….why so much? With kids in the car. Her kids & her brother’s kids — precious angels she adored & loved & would never NORMALLY harm.

        So what was ABNORMAL that day? That weekend?

        Only an in-depth, comprehensive Forensic Psychological Profile of Diane will reveal any answers.

        And until that’s done, it’s going to drive us all “crazy” wondering WHAT IN THE WORLD was wrong with “Aunt Diane”?!

  20. Good News there’s an update Jackie Hance, the mom who lost her three daughters, gave birth to a beautiful daughter and wrote a book in memory of her girls.

  21. I have really tried to dig below the surface with this story and when one does and explores the family dynamics as best one can with all the denial and evasiveness, you may conclude as I have that one huge element of her vindictiveness in destroying her brother’s children was revenge for him having forged a relationship with the mother she hated and allowing their mother to have a grandmother/grandchildren relationship with his children. This she could not tolerate. her

    • Carol,

      I hesitated to “approve” your post, and I hope I don’t regret it. My blog post about this tragic case still gets more hits than anything else I have posted, and I decided I have to let people say what they will about it. But I am astounded that–no matter what you know about this case that the rest of us don’t know–you would claim that Diane purposely destroyed her brother’s children. That seems a completely absurd claim to me. The woman killed herself as well as those children. That is not a hallmark of revenge. Whether what led to it was Diane’s irresponsibility or something weirder, all evidence points to it having been an accident. Terrible and tragic, but not intentional in any sense of the word. People don’t just go out and kill themselves and a carload of children to get back their mothers.

      It makes me very sad when people cannot accept that sometimes bad things happen without a villain. Perhaps Diane’s husband made “excuses” for her–he has also suffered a loss in all of this, and it is common for people to over-idealize those they have lost, whether they were perfect in life or not.

      I understand that it is difficult for the couple who lost their children this way to be unable to get over it. But the people around them should not encourage bitter and ridiculous theories that only increase their bitterness and anger. That does not help them heal.

  22. melissa goldstein

    i Just watched the HBO documentary and was pretty horrified. Like so many unanswered questions in the world I think what actually happened in this case will never be fully known. That being said; I am completely disgusted that ANYONE would get fucked up on vodka and pot and drive her own children and her nieces. This is just sick beyond words. There are lots of theories; here; tooth abcess, ambien induced black out, diabetic blindness…the list goes on BUT no matter what ELSE could have potentially “contributed” to this bloodshed IF the toxicology report is correct (and who the heck knows. maybe it wasn’t?) but if that is the case than shame on her for drinking hard alcohol and smoking weed and driving children. People in the media called her a monster. Well I agree. That is a monstrous act. I have drank plenty of alcohol in my life and when I was young and stupid I even drove under the influence but as an adult when you are old enough to see beyond yourself and in the case of Diane who was caring not only for her children but her brothers children too her getting wasted and then driving is beyond infantile and selfish beyond words. She not only killed herself but 7 others. Why? So she could get fucked up? Please.

    IF the toxicology report was correct they say her blood alcohol level reflected 10 drinks. 10???? I have drank plenty in my day and 10 drinks is a shit load of alcohol. I would probably pass out after 5 or 6. 10 I’d be nearly comatose. Add weed to that??? What kind of person does this???? I’m sorry, I don’t know what the heck happened. Even if she had some sort of medical problem no one forced her to get high or drunk and if those two things were catalysts for medical problems that ensured after she partied like a rock star than this is still 10000 percent her fault and she is burning in hell.

    You probably wont post this and that is ok. I don’t care. But I am sick of our helpless society where every has an ailment that excuses them for their despicible behavior. If I do something idiotic that causes my death or the death of someone else while tuning out on drugs or alcohol than it’s still ME who chose to do this, even if I didn’t feel it when it was happening.

    I had a recent conversation with someone about drugs and alcohol and how it’s like being one step removed from what you’re doing. So much violence that happens in this world would never happen if people did not have the opportunity to anesthetize theselves so that they don’t feel full force of what they are doing.

    The only thing that would redeem this woman in my mind or in the minds of anyone else is if for some reason the toxicology report was inaccurate. Then id say hey maybe she did have a medical problem and thereby warrants sympathy or compassion. But getting loaded and then driving a car with children in it is a disgrace.

    • I really can’t help but agree with you. I have no doubts there there was some level of suffering in this woman’s life, but she knew better. Multiple toxicology reports confirm that she was tanked. So many people suffer from so many things, and the majority don’t drink themselves to the point of delerium with a car full of children. They kept talking about the tooth, and the records from the dentist were from 2005. Ambien is a heck of a drug, but as someone with a lot of experience with it, it doesn’t affect everyone the same. Did anyone else notice the multiple prescriptions in her medical records for hydrocodone? Again, a highly addictive drug, and the family just seemed to read right past it. Ambien can cause some serious wanderlust and memory loss, but it is unlikely, to me anyways, that someone would be awake four hours after an Ambien/marijuana cocktail. My thoughts are that she was nipping throughout any situation for a long time and she was more stressed than usual. She had to be in control at all times, and that is exhausting, not to mention that her own mother in law essentially labeled her husband a big child who needed a woman who would run the show. I think he knows so much more, and I think all of his different explanations for the vodka bottle being in the car are proof that he was aware of something on some level. He knew she smoked marijuana, and one moment he said “Never, not Diane”, and then he grudgingly admits that she used it for insomnia. When her brother asked her to stay put she knew if he found her hammered it would shatter that image of perfection, and she may have never seen his kids again.

  23. Since the documentary first came out other information has emerged that may change some of the conclusions the film seems to suggest. It is now known that Daniel lied about going up to the campsite the day before Diane and the kids so he could fish. He actually went to it five hours before Diane left herself with all the kids. Speculation that Diane may have been angry at Danny for not taking some responsibility for driving the kids or helping out more and that they may have argued that weekend. There is no evidence that Diane asked for pain medication at the gas station. The gas station clerk refused to talk to police and no one knows now what she asked for if anything. She may have asked for beer for all anyone knows. There is also no evidence that Diane was in pain from an abcessed tooth or any other medical problem. That is all just speculation that is suggested in the documentary. Friends of Diane have said that she was unhappy in her marriage to Danny and often angry at him. Friends have also said that Diane was an irregular drinker, not the alcoholic she is often portrayed as being in the media. There are many unresolved questions in this story. It is clear that the family is in serious denial but you have to wonder what they may be lying about or covering up.

  24. I just watched the HBO documentary and my mind was spinning all night. I agree with most of the posters on her that state that her husband and sister-in-law were in denial. Why wouldn’t they be, though? It appears they only knew the Diane that Diane wanted them to know. I have an aunt who was a teacher for years. She was also an alcoholic and prescription painkiller abuser, but you wouldn’t know it talking to her. The only reason why we found out at all was that she overdosed and almost died. I just thought my aunt enjoyed a glass of wine after a hard day at work (who doesn’t?) What I learned was that she’d pop a few OxyContin, drink a BOX of wine and then go to bed, and when she ran out of wine she’d drink anything, including mouthwash. She’s thankfully recovered and has been sober for five years, but if she, a woman in charge of children on a daily basis, could hide her addictions, why couldn’t Diane? Her and her husband did not spend a lot of time together, there’s a fair chance that she drank while performing her daily duties and then smoked to relax. And he was none the wiser because he was working while she was at home and vice versa. There’s always a tipping point, though, and unfortunately 8 lives were taken because of it. It’s sad, but I believe it to be true. Diane thought she had a handle on her addictions but lost control. Because of her need to control everything, she made a fatal mistake and instead of admitting to her brother that she was too blasted to drive, she made it a point to try to get herself home. How terrified those poor babies must have been, watching helpless while their aunt tried everything to get ahold of herself and get them home. I was once in a car with my sister in a terrible storm and she was speeding down the road. I told her to slow down and her response to me was, “the faster I go, the faster we’ll get out of this.” I made a joke about getting to heaven earlier than expected and she slowed down, but when I heard about how fast Diane was driving that memory came right back to me. Maybe she was so blasted she couldn’t see but thought, “if I just make it home it will all be okay.” It’s a sad, horrifying tragedy that will never really be closed, but I believe that Diane Schuler was a woman with many demons that took her, those babies, and those poor men that day.

  25. Michele Vidnjvich

    I like many of you have rehashed this story in my brain many many times. I just watched the documentary again the other day and find myself going over and over it again. It just won’t go away, which leads me to this website. I have so many opinions on what may have and have not happened, but one thing is clear, the toxicology report.
    Daniel is in denial and Jay is to worried about what people will think about the family. The prescriptions that she had a list of was from previous years before.
    It seems to me that Aunt Diane was bothered by something, a trip that was to take a few hours took 4 1/2. Something was bugging her. So many unanswered questions.
    I hope her family has moved on in some small way.
    I was looking for any current updates and I couldn’t find any. I do know that day will live forever in many peoples minds, including my own, and I didn’t have any connection to it.


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