Comedian Robert Schimmel's Crash May Devastate Teen Daughter


At the age of 60, comedian Robert Schimmel was living on a prayer, with a host of diseases that could have taken his life at any time, say friends.

Instead, he died from injuries he suffered in a car accident in Phoenix over the weekend, and his daughter, Aliyah Schimmel, was at the wheel.

Aliyah, who at 19 is beginning her life, has a long psychological road ahead as she tries to deal with the accident, even though authorities say there is no indication the accident was her fault.

She was driving the car on Interstate 10 in Arizona when she swerved to avoid another car and her vehicle rolled to the side of the road.

Schimmel's funeral was scheduled for today in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Aliyah wrote this upbeat message on Facebook from her hospital bed: "Thanks to everyone for the wishes of care and concern. I'm in the hospital right now and don't have access to Facebook or my phone."

Her 11-year-old brother, who was also a passenger in the car, was not injured, according to local reports. This is the second tragedy for the family -- another son, Derek, died of leukemia at the age of 11.

Schimmel leaves six children and two former wives, who will be grieving with his teenage daughter.

Aliyah's Facebook page says she is a student at Arizona State University and she lists the Gigglemonsters and the Beatles as her favorite bands. She also says she likes Harry Potter, the Twilight Series and books by Dr. Seuss.

In her profile photo she looks adoringly at her father.

"Now is really the critical time for her to receive support from family and friends," said Caroline Clauss-Ehlers, a counseling psychologist and associate professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

"It's devastating for her. She was trying to avoid the accident and take care of her family and I am assuming she had a close relationship with her Dad."

"She herself is mourning and grieving," said Clauss-Ehlers. "She has already gone through the loss of a brother. This is her loss as well."

Clauss-Ehlers said Aliyah must also deal with her future.

"She is 19, an adolescent developing her identity as a young woman and going out into the world," she said. "What does this mean for her college? I have seen this with adolescents taking care of their parents after 9/11. What do you do? Go back to school and get on with her life? For her, it means a disruption in her identity."

Just this year, former first lady Laura Bush wrote about killing a 17-year-old friend when she ran a stop sign and crashed her car in 1963.

Laura Bush Writes About Survivor Guilt

"In the aftermath all I felt was guilty, very guilty," Bush wrote in her memoir, Spoken From the Heart," to. "In fact I still do. It is a guilt I will carry for the rest of my life, far more visible to me than the scar etched in the bump of my knee."

"It's a terrible thing when somebody is the driver of the car and kills someone," said Ann Rosen Spector, a clinical psychologist and professor at Rutgers University who specializes in grief. "You are going to have survivor's guilt."

As for Aliyah Schimmel, "not only does she have the loss of her father and a sense of self blame," said Spector. "Also she survived and her father did not. She has all those losses to deal with."

Spector said many war victims and those who lived through Hurricane Katrina also exhibited survivor's guilt.

"Why me and not them?" she said. "Although, in a sense, looking at the story, there was nothing she could do."

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