Mummy’s Little Secret
Until a Devoted Mother Named Diane Schuler Killed Eight People, Including Herself, Her Daughter, and Three Nieces in a Horrific Car Accident, No one Suspected She could be an Alcoholic.
In 2009, a 36-year-old mother with five small children in her minivan took a wrong turn on her way back from the Sullivan County campground where the family had spent the weekend to their house on Long Island. Diane Schuler, a successful account executive and the mother of two of the children in the car, sped up the Taconic Parkway in the wrong direction for almost two miles before crashing into an oncoming SUV. Eight people were killed: Schuler, her two-year-old daughter, her three nieces aged 8, 7 and 5. Three others died in the SUV she collided with, including a coupe in their sixties.
The crash was the most devastating motor-vehicle accident that Westchester County had witnessed in more than 70 years. Still, that wasn’t the reason the accident attracted national attention. For a few days, Schuler’s bizarre behavior was a mystery. She was, by all appearances, a great wife and devoted mother, a warm, responsible employee and boss at Cablevision—why had she lost her way? Explanations—excuses—were quickly advanced: The Taconic is a narrow highway with no shoulder and few places to pull over; Schuler suffered from diabetes and had been complaining that morning of a toothache.
When the toxicology reports came back two weeks later, the information they contained hit the American public, who were by then entranced by the story, like a proverbial ton of bricks. Diane Schuler had been not only drunk but also stoned as she made the fatal mistake of entering the Taconic via an exit ramp. In fact, Schuler had the equivalent of 10 drinks in her system and high levels of THC in her blood. In addition, witnesses later reported seeing Schuler at two different times that morning on her knees by the side of the road, apparently vomiting. A red minivan had been spotted careening, tailgating, flashing headlights, honking and straddling two lanes—all signs of DUI—along the same route that Schuler had followed.
In the minutes before Diane Schuler drunkenly smashed her vehicle while travelling in the wrong direction on the Taconic Parkway her little niece cried, terrified, into a cellphone to her dad:
“There’s something wrong with Aunt Diane!”
Those were the awful, last words of Emma Hance, who at 9 was the eldest of the five children riding in the death car during the fiery, horrific crash in Westchester. That child knew she was in trouble. Yet she had no choice but to ride on, helplessly, to her death.