Taconic Crash Site Where Drunk Mom Killed Kids Is Filled With Ghosts

Taconic Parkway off rampDiane Schuler drove up this off-ramp.Just two minutes down the road from me is an off-ramp to the Taconic Parkway. I pass it several times a week, take it home several times a month. It's a beautiful, quiet spot, surrounded by lots of grass, trees, and quaint suburban homes with front porches. It's not a spot that would make one typically think of "death" and "terror."

Diane Schuler and the horrific crash that killed eight people two years ago shocked everyone, but it especially haunts locals who know that road intimately. That stretch can be desolate at times, especially on a Sunday. One could understand how a confused stranger -- even one who wasn't intoxicated -- might not immediately realize they were going the wrong way. This always gave me hope that the children in her car didn't know what was happening, and that the end came quick and unexpected. Except now we know that wasn't true. Those kids knew they were about to die.

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On a Sunday morning, Diane Schuler drove the wrong way up an off-ramp (pictured above) in a minivan filled with children onto the Taconic and proceeded two miles before crashing into an SUV head on and ending eight lives, including her own.

According to a lawsuit filed against Schuler's estate by the three girls' mother, against the estate of Schuler, her daughters were well aware of this fact and were in a living hell right before the accident. The legal terms used in the lawsuit are "terror, fear of impending death, extreme horror, fright, [and] mental anguish." All this led up to a phone call that the oldest child in the car, Emma Hance, 8, made to her father minutes before the accident in which she said: "Something is wrong with Aunt Diane." That quote became the title of an HBO documentary on the crash that aired Monday night.

Perhaps the youngest in the car, Schuler's own daughter, 2, wasn't aware. All the other children, including Schuler's son Bryan, 5, were older. The two other Hance girls were 5 and 7. Maybe the three adult men in the SUV that Schuler hit head-on didn't see it coming. That at least they had all passed on instantly without any time to feel pain.

I took a ride down the road this morning to look at that off-ramp once again in this new light. It continues to give me a twinge driving on it or passing it, and this morning it seemed even more ominous. And something else struck me.

When I use the ramp the correct way, as an off-ramp, it always means my trip is over, that I'm almost home. When my kids are in the car, they know it too. What struck me today is the way the ramp veers off to the left -- you don't see where you are going when you get on. The path ahead, whether the road eventually goes right or left, is unclear.

Those children were never "almost home" when they traveled that road, not even close.

 

Image via Cynthia Dermody

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