On July 26th, Long Island's Diane Schuler heretofore inexplicably drove a minivan full of children and adults onto the wrong side of the Taconic State Parkway and crashed head-on into an SUV, resulting in Westchester County's worst traffic accident in 75 years. Eight people died in the fiery crash: Schuler, four children, (her own 2-year-old daughter and three nieces), and the SUV's three adult male passengers. Following the crash, there was much speculation that Schuler had become ill, disoriented and had fallen victim to some sort of sudden affliction.
But with Tuesday's toxicology report released, we now know she was simply drunk out of her freakin' skull, high on marijuana, and driving with one hand on the wheel and the other on a bottle of vodka, according to police. Her blood-alcohol level was .19, more than twice the legal limit where someone is considered DWI. Experts said she had the equivalent of 10 shots of 80-proof alcohol in her system.
My heart goes out to Schuler's brother Warren Hence and his wife, whose three young children died so senselessly at the hands of their mind-numbingly selfish aunt. I also feel for Schuler's husband Daniel, who lost his 2-year-old daughter, and will now be raising his 5-year-old son Bryan -- the only crash survivor -- without a mother.
To say this is a tragedy of epic proportions would still be a gross understatement. There are people who get killed every day through no fault of their own. They are simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. People like those three men in the SUV, and Schuler's tiny passengers. Or innocent bystanders during a robbery. Or people like my late wife, the actor/writer/director (Waitress) Adrienne Shelly, who are brutally murdered by intruders in their homes and offices. These unfortunate souls played no role in their very untimely and undeserving deaths. But Schuler had choices. She knew exactly what she was doing, and fully understood she was putting the lives of so many people in danger. And the choice she made was to get so utterly shitfaced that, for several miles and minutes, she could not even realize she was on a wrong-way death-drive.
I have house in upstate New York. I sat in traffic for almost 4 hours that fateful Sunday -- a normally uneventful drive which lets me zip back into Manhattan in 1:40. So I knew something had been terribly wrong. Then the radio reports came in. And then I eventually passed the charred remains of the toppled, mangled minivan. It made me sick. And what also made me sick was the utter senselessness of it all. That it all could've been avoided. That those four beautiful little children, and the three men from Yonkers, could all still be alive today. That a couple from Long Island would not have to attend funerals for their three young daughters.
My wife, and thousands like her, had no choice. Their lives were savagely ripped from them. I know what it feels like to live through horrific death. I also know what it feels like to raise a 2-year-old by myself. But what I don't know is why people continue to make stupid, irresponsible and selfish choices that bring on such horror and cause death to so many. I suppose I will never understand.