Two Women, Not Feeling Well, Manage to Kill 58 People. Talk About Sick.

Flight 3407
Image by cra1843 via Flickr

Today’s newspapers, where I live near New York City, carry two awful stories echoing an ugly avoidable theme — a local woman driving a vehicle full of small children and a professional flying a commercial aircraft filled with 50 paying passengers, both doing so after telling others they were feeling ill but handling the job anyway. In both instances, those inside the vehicle and those aboard the plane were killed; only one five-year-old boy, the driver’s son, survived. In both instances, the passengers, naturally, assumed complete trust in the prudence, competence and sense of responsibility of the two in charge of transporting them — both women. The car’s driver was 36, the co-pilot 24.

Their passengers were wrong and they died for it.

The driver of the minivan, Diane Schuler, called her brother to say she wasn’t feeling well, and faced a long drive south from a camping trip. He offered to drive north, a good hour’s’ distance, to come and get her. Stay put, he suggested. She did not. She had three young nieces, his daughters, and her own two children with her. At 1:30 that day, she drove the van the wrong way into the northbound lane of the narrow, busy Taconic State Parkway, drove 1.7 miles, and crashed head-on into another vehicle, a Chevy Trailblazer, killing the three men inside and the children, her two-year-old daughter and her three nieces, ages 9,7 and 5.  The ramp she mistook for an entrance is clearly marked with signs saying Do Not Enter. A police officer quoted in the Times said “She seemed a little disoriented” when she called her brother.

Rebecca L. Shaw, the young and poorly-paid co-pilot of Continental Connection Flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo that crashed on Feb. 12 wanted to call in sick,  but didn’t. “If I call in sick now, I’ve got to put myself in a hotel until I feel better,” a transcript now released reveals her saying, coughing and sneezing while in the cockpit during that flight. On her annual gross pay of $15,800, a night’s hotel stay was an expense she wanted to avoid. That crash killed 50 people.

Other than better judgment, could anything have prevented this?

10 thoughts on “Two Women, Not Feeling Well, Manage to Kill 58 People. Talk About Sick.

    1. diamondrich

      Continental Connection is probably not Continental Airlines. It’s most likely a commuter airline contracted by Continental to service smaller destinations and feed Continental. This is a common practice employed by major carriers. These commuter airlines are low cost. This means the pilots and are paid very little (most are waiting on jobs with major carriers or furloughed by major carriers) and are happy to just have a job. The rest periods are FAA standard, which means the pilots are most likely NOT rested at all.

      The decent pay and benefits, like sick leave, is not there. In fact, management from some low cost carriers discourages pilots from calling in sick and has been known to fire pilots for calling in sick. The pilot would have risked being fired, and/or had to pay for the hotel room, and when well had to find a way home or to the next station for the next flight. This type of environment will make people do things they would not normally do.

      1. Caitlin Kelly

        You are right;Colgan Air is a feeder airline.

        It is terrifying, as someone who often flies in tiny aircraft like that one, if their pilots are so poorly paid they can’t or won’t take a sick day.

  1. Both woman were amazingly irresponsible. Both of these woman had viable options to putting those lives at risk. It seems to me Caitlin that you’re attempting to paint both women as victims of circumstances, I don’t see that all. They both acted in a manner that is nothing less than criminally negligent and very sadly many many people have paid the price for that.

  2. expatjourno

    What the hell are you talking about? The captain, Renslow, was at the controls, not Shaw, and the story clearly indicates that the expense of the hotel would have been on the airline, not not Shaw:

    She added, “If I call in sick now I’ve got to put myself in a hotel until I feel better.” If that happened, she said, “at least I’m in a hotel room on the company’s buck. But we’ll see. I’m pretty tough.”

  3. expatjourno

    Maybe they should have one-way spikes on exit ramps like they do in parking lots. Drive the wrong way and your tires get shredded.

  4. Caitlin Kelly

    Brian, funny you read it that way. My point was exactly how irresponsible these women were and the effect of their choices.

    1. Then I don’t understand what point you are trying to make by bringing up the co-pilot’s salary. Seems to me that somehow you find that as cause to justify her criminal behavior.

  5. mermaid01

    I think you are using a poor example here. It’s becoming very obvious that the horrific accident on the Taconic Sunday was no such thing. It was clearly a murder/suicide. There is simply no other explanation for what is otherwise an inexplicable chain of events.

    It’s sexism that did not allow us to see the obvious till now. We simply don’t want to admit that a mother could have carried out this awful an action. Let’s face it: If a man had been driving that van, no one would have ever thought what occurred was anything but deliberate. Do you really believe anyone could drive two miles up the wrong side of a highway without noticing something was amiss?

  6. hisgirlfriday

    What strikes me here is how often we, as women, push ourselves when what we really need to do is ask for help or take a break. How many times have we gone to work sick, gone to our kid’s play even though we have a fever, did the laundry even though we should crashed on the couch after a long day?

    How often do we skip breakfast, put of that mammogram (but get the kids to the dentist,) clean the kitchen instead of make time for the gym.

    I know that it’s not exclusive to women but …

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