What happened to Aunt Diane? A look into the mystery

In the serene summer of 2009, a devastating event shook the core of a New York community and baffled the nation. The story of Diane Schuler, known to her family as ‘Aunt Diane,’ spiraled into a perplexing tragedy.

On a day that began with the promise of a routine journey, the unimaginable unfolded, leaving a trail of sorrow, unanswered questions, and a quest for understanding.

Join us as we journey through the timeline, confront the controversies, and seek to comprehend the incomprehensible in the tragic tale of Aunt Diane.

What happened to Aunt Diane
Aunt Diane

Who is Aunt Diane?

The 2011 television documentary There is Something Wrong with Aunt Diane, which explores the 2009 Taconic State Parkway accident, was helmed by Liz Garbus.

HBO debuted it on July 25, 2011.

Through interviews with friends and family, the movie presents Diane Schuler and tries to piece together Schuler’s behavior on the day of the collision to ascertain why it happened.

Daniel, Schuler’s husband, and Jay, her sister-in-law, are the main interview subjects.

What happened to Aunt Diane?

Eight people were killed when Diane Schuler drove the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway in the afternoon on July 26, 2009. It was 12:58 in the afternoon.

There was a call for Warren Hance. The caller ID showed the number of his sister Diane Schuler, 36, but when he answered, it was his own small daughter who was speaking.

Hance listened carefully as his apprehensive eight-year-old Emma described how Aunt Diane was having problems seeing and speaking while driving. After that, Diane Schuler called and said she was confused and had fuzzy vision.

Hance became agitated and ordered Schuler to stop and get off the road. He would see them soon; he was on his way. However, Schuler had already left when he got to the scene, and disaster was about to strike.

Diane left the camp at around 9:30 a.m. with her three nieces (8-year-old Emma, 7-year-old Alyson, and 5-year-old Kate), her 2-year-old daughter Erin, and her 5-year-old son Bryan.

That is, until about 11 a.m., when problems began. Diane Schuler called her brother Warren while she was traveling on the New York Thruway to inform him that they would be delayed due to heavy traffic in the area.

The details of what transpired in Diane Schuler’s vehicle following the phone call are unclear and have been assembled from toll information and witness statements.

Four calls were placed to 911 by 911 operators reporting an 80 mph van traveling the wrong way down the parkway. The van was indeed Schuler’s.

It drove erratically south down the Taconic State Parkway’s northbound lanes for 1.7 miles before crashing head-on into a Chevrolet Trailblazer, which then crashed into a Chevrolet Tracker at 1:35 p.m.

Less than three minutes passed during the entire process. Out of the eleven individuals involved in the collision, seven were declared deceased on the spot. Eight people would die in all, with one of them dying at the hospital later.

It was probably instantaneous for Diane Schuler, her daughter, and two of her nieces. The kids had been in the backseat, but they did not seem to be wearing seatbelts or buckled up in car seats.

What were the controversies surrounding Aunt Diane’s accident?

According to the mother-of-two’s autopsy report, alcohol was found in her stomach, eye, urine, and brain fluids. Her blood alcohol content was 0.19. At the time of the collision, this was more than twice the permitted limit.

Given that cirrhosis is a clear sign of chronic alcohol consumption, her family made an effort to refute the accusation of substance abuse. Many of her family members denounced these claims as well.

Reports from toxicology also showed Diane Schuler was intoxicated and high at the time.

Despite not being able to establish whether Schuler was intoxicated when driving, investigators did discover a bottle of vodka at the crash site. 

911 tapes from a family friend who shockingly disclosed information to emergency dispatchers were among the other pieces of evidence.

Just before the collision, one of the girls in the car was able to contact her family and beg for assistance.

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