Aunt Diane’s Mystery

DATELINE: 8 Highway Deaths

Moments before accident, looking for painkillers?


If there is anything shocking in the documentary called There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane,it’s the idea that an ordinary life of a 36-year old Long Island suburban mother can be so documented. Her life is more under surveillance than under the influence.

There are photos and videos of her at McDonalds and at a service station in the time before the car crash that killed 8 people, including three innocent men in another car—and four children. Her young son, only five, said his mother wasn’t feeling well and could not see.

Yet, she continued to drive on: driven on by personal forces or demons that led her to be a mother-of-the-year type.

Within a week the state toxicology reports stated she was highly intoxicated and used marijuana. No one who saw her during the four hours of her mad-house driving thought she was drunk.

What happened indeed. A forensic psychiatrist notes that when people are demonized as Diane Schuler was after the tragedy, friends and family move toward sainthood in defense.

Did she have a nervous breakdown? Did she mistake vodka for water? Did she think alcohol would dull the pain of her aching abscessed tooth? Did she have a stroke? Any or all may have contributed to her final condition without alcoholic tendencies.

We cannot imagine how a woman who had a highly important director’s job with a major cable company could function while having such addictions as alcohol or drugs.

Her sister-in-law thinks an abscessed tooth was causing her pain, and might have poisoned her ultimately with pain, blindness, and bad judgment. It is possible. It seems more likely than a sudden mental crackup or a drunken binge with a car full of kids.

If she overachieved in life, with people putting more and more expectations on her, she could have a mental crash—at the point where it was least possible to help her.

When the foundation and pillar of our society, the suburban mom, becomes unhinged, we are looking at mysteries that defy explanation. When privacy marks her personality, we are left without answers.

We feel great sympathy for Diane’s plight and her hard work during life that ended up a mess on a highway and in a coroner report. We are reduced to such simplicity in this society when you merely do your job and try your best. This is the ultimate tragedy.