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?