This is the first in a five-part series called Wrong Way Tragedy, about the lasting impacts of the fatal drunken driving accident that claimed eight lives on the Taconic State Parkway on July 26, 2009. Click to read Part 2, First Responders Look Back.
BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – Two years after Diane Schuler killed herself and seven others when she drove the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway, Maureen Fraietta still remembers the horrific accident, and it still causes her pain.
Toxicology reports in 2010 showed that Schuler had a blood alcohol level double the legal limit and that she had been smoking marijuana.
"I just feel bad for everybody involved. It almost doesn't make sense to me how she could be that drunk. There's something missing," said Fraietta, the co-vice-president of the Briarcliff Parent, Teacher and Student Association, who watched an interview of Schuler's sister-in-law on the NBC Today show on Monday morning. "I'm going to believe that she was not like that when she originally got in the (minivan), so maybe she was drinking in the van but why would she do that with a van full of kids?"
Fraietta herself is the victim of a drunk driving accident. Her first child, Brandon, was born 12 weeks early after Fraietta was hit by a drunk driver. Fraietta filed and won a lawsuit against the driver, but that did not alleviate difficulties with Brandon, who had troubles eating and breathing as a child, and died of health complications six years ago.
"The (Schuler accident) is a little too close for comfort," Fraietta said. For that reason, she did not think she would watch an HBO documentary on the accident entitled "There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane" on Monday night.
The documentary, scheduled to play at 9 p.m. on Monday, explores the uncertainties that remain following the death of Schuler and seven others: Schuler's daughter, her three nieces and three men who were in the oncoming SUV.
"There will never be a concrete answer with absolute certainty that can be given as to what happened," a documentary narrator says in the HBO trailer.
In July, Schuler's sister-in-law, Jackie Hance, whose three daughters died in the horrific crash, wrote a first-person account, published in Ladies' Home Journal, in which she describes how she felt in the aftermath of the tragedy and reveals that she is pregnant with another baby who is due in the fall.
"For my whole life I always went to church. But after this tragedy I stopped going. How could I believe that God had been listening to my prayers?" Hance wrote.
But later she acted on what seems like a message from God from a dream in which God would not let Hance through the gates of Heaven to see her three daughters.
God tells Hance in her dream the she has been given a gift from a doctor that she has to use before she can see her children. Hance had had her tubes tied in the past, and she told her fertility doctor during her next visit that she wanted to get pregnant. She got pregnant during her first try at in-vitro fertilization.
"Every day all I want is to be reunited with my girls again in Heaven. But Emma, Alyson and Katie have other plans for me right now. Our baby is due in the fall," Hance wrote.
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