Diane Schuler

The following is a quote from mydailynews.com

It’s enough to make you sick.

Cops Tuesday painted a mind-boggling picture of death driver Diane Schuler — guzzling vodka and smoking pot with helpless kids in tow before the horrific Taconic State Parkway crash.

The 36-year-old mom drank so much she could barely see. She still had alcohol in her stomach when she crashed, killing herself, her daughter, three nieces and three men in an SUV she hit, police said.

Toxicology tests did not show what she drank, but a jumbo 1.75-liter bottle of Absolut vodka was found in the wreckage of her Ford Windstar minivan.

She consumed at least 10 ounces of liquor during the reckless 90-mile drive from a campground in Sullivan County to Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County, police said.

She smoked pot within an hour of driving the wrong way on the Taconic heading home to Long Island, police said.

The revelations brought outrage from the family of the men killed in the SUV — but silence from Schuler’s relatives.

“I’m stunned that anybody would do that with kids in the car,” said Robert Guzzo, whose brother-in-law and father-in-law were killed. “I’m very angry. This was not an accident ; it was a murder.”

The July26 crash was ruled a homicide and referred to the Westchester County district attorney, but police don’t expect charges.

The toxicology tests came as a shock after police initially said it didn’t appear Schuler was drunk. Results came in Friday. Cops waited until the burials of the victims to release the results of the tests.

Killed in the Windstar were Schuler’s 2-year-old daughter, Erin, and Schuler’s nieces Emma Hance, 9, Alison Hance, 7, and Kate Hance, 5. Five-year-old Brian Schuler was the lone survivor.

Three Yonkers men in the SUV died — Guy Bastardi, 49, his father, Michael Bastardi, 81, and family friend Daniel Longo, 74.

“We got very devastating news today,” Michael Bastardi Jr. said .

Schuler’s blood-alcohol level was 0.19% — more than twice the legal limit, cops said. She had 6 grams of undigested alcohol in her stomach when she died.

“She would have had difficulty with her perception, with her judgment and her memory,” said Betsy Spratt, the Westchester County toxicology examiner.

“Around that level of alcohol you start to get tunnel vision where you can’t see peripherally all the time.” Marijuana intensifies the effects.

Police could not say if Schuler got wasted while driving or stopped along the way. It was unclear if she was drinking before she got behind the wheel to drive the children home from camping.

Her husband, Daniel Schuler, told cops that his wife was fine when they left about 9:30 a.m. He drove one car straight home to West Babylon, L.I., while she took the kids to McDonald’s.

Ann Scott, 77, who owns the campsite the family visited for three years, saw Schuler off.

“I got pretty close to her and waved goodbye,”” she said. “If she had alcohol in her breath, I would have smelled it.”

Schuler drove erratically along much of the route. About 1 p.m., she called brother Warren Hance and said she was sick. At 1:30 p.m., Schuler entered the northbound Taconic via an exit ramp. She drove 1.7 miles the wrong way before plowing into the Bastardis.

“I don’t even want to think about if the brother knew what she was doing and let those kids get in the car,” Guzzo said.

How much Schuler’s loved ones knew is a mystery.

“At this point we’re getting limited information from the family,” said Maj. William Carey of the state police.

The family was notified of the test results Friday, police said. The day before, Schuler and the four girls were laid to rest.

At the funeral, Hance lovingly remembered his three daughters and paid tribute to Schuler’s “miracle” boy, Brian. He didn’t say a word about his sister.

In never-before-heard 911 tapes, a family friend tells emergency dispatchers that at least one of the terrified kids in the July Taconic Parkway wrong-way crash managed to call relatives to plead for help just minutes before she died in a head-on collision that killed eight of the nine people involved.
“The girls just called in distress,” the friend tells dispatchers, apparently referring to driver Diane Schuler’s three nieces who were in the car. “They said the aunt is driving very erratically. They think she’s sick.”

The family tried to call back, but by then the girls were “like radio silent on the cell phones,” the friend said. Other tapes describe authorities attempting to organize a search for the vehicle, unaware it was already too late. With four children in car, Schuler drove nearly two miles the wrong way down New York’s Taconic State Parkway before plowing head-on into another vehicle.
In another 911 call a woman, apparently a witness to the crash’s gruesome aftermath, described the horrifying scene.

“Yeah there are [injuries],” the woman said as another screams in the background. “There are like little kids. The kids [are] not moving. There’s a whole bunch of kids. Honestly the car’s smashed.”
Schuler, her two-year-old daughter and three nieces were killed in the crash along with the three men in the other vehicle. Schuler’s five-year-old son Bryan was the crash’s only survivor and suffered two broken legs and a broken arm among other serious injuries.

Toxicology reports after the crash revealed that Schuler had been drunk and high at the time of the accident and had a blood alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit. Investigators could not determine if Schuler had been drinking while she was driving, but alcohol was in her stomach at the time of the autopsy and a bottle of vodka was found at the crash scene, New York State Police Major William Carey said at a press conference.
Wrongway Driver’s Husband Denies Alcohol Use

Schuler’s husband, Daniel Schuler, has repeatedly denied that his wife was a drinker and has insisted that the toxicology report was wrong.

“She did not drink. She was not an alcoholic,” Schuler said Aug. 6. “Something medically had to have happened.”

Schuler was driving home with the children from a campground in upstate New York, where witnesses said she seemed “fine.”

Irving Anolik, attorney for the family of Guy and Michael Bastardi, two of the men killed in the other car, told “Good Morning America” in August that he “categorically” rejected the idea that the wreck was caused by any medical emergency, as Daniel Schuler had suggested.
“This is a killing. Don’t call it an accident,” Anolik, attorney for the Bastardi family who lost a father and son in the wreck, told “Good Morning America.” Anolik said that any medical condition theories are “at war with the autopsy report, with the blood analysis, with the whole panorama of things that surround this killing.”

Schuler hired private investigator Thomas Ruskin to look into the accident. According to Ruskin, Schuler looked “completely” normal when she stopped at a convenient store to purchase Tylenol or Advil just hours before the crash.

Investigators had hoped that as the crash’s sole survivor, Bryan would be able to shed light on the minutes that led up to the crash, but the boy has not said much, Ruskin said.

“He doesn’t seem to remember right now,” Ruskin told “Good Morning America” Oct. 16. “He is 5 years old and he is recovering from very severe injuries. Fracture plus head trauma he suffered as part of the injuries at the accident.”

Ruskin said he is now running his own tests to determine exactly what happened that day in hopes of piecing together the moments that led up to the crash.


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