Diane Schuler, Wrong-Way Highway Driver Who Killed 8 Had 10 Drinks, Was High

Toxicology on driver in NY crash that killed eight reveals alcohol, marijuana.

ByLEE FERRAN via via logo
July 30, 2009, 8:20 AM

Aug. 4, 2009 — -- A New York mom had at least 10 drinks and smoked a large amount of marijuana before driving five children the wrong way down a highway and crashing head on into an SUV, investigators said today.

Diane Schuler, 36, was killed in the July 26 collision on New York's Taconic State Parkway that also took the lives of her 2-year-old daughter and three nieces who were riding in her van as well as all three men who were in the SUV. Her 5-year-old son was the lone survivor of the crash.

Schuler had a blood alcohol content of .19, more than double the legal limit, and was also "impaired by marijuana," according to a statement released by state attorney Janet Difiore citing a toxicology report by the Westchester County medical examiner.

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.

It was not clear exactly how much or when Schuler smoked marijuana; the toxicology reported "high" levels of THC, the active ingredient in pot, Westchester director of toxicology Betsy Spratt said.

But "there were approximately 10 drinks still in her," Spratt said, that had yet to be metabolized.

The combination of alcohol and marijuana "intensified" the effects of each, Spratt said.

"With that level of alcohol we talk in ranges. She would've had difficulty with perception, judgment and memory. Around that level you get tunnel vision," Spratt said.

Carey said, "There's no indication there will be any criminal charges forthcoming."

Police initially said they had no indication Schuler was impaired while driving, Carey said.

"We did not have people that morning describe Diane Schuler as anything other than to say she was fine," Carey said.

The crash was ruled a homicide last week before the toxicology report was completed, Westchester medical examiner Dr. Millard Hyland told ABCNews.com.

"It was ruled a homicide in terms of people being killed because she was driving in the wrong direction," Hyland said, and did not take toxicology into account.

The full report was completed Monday, Hyland said.

Roseann Guzzo, daughter of Michael Bastardi and Guy Bastardi, both crash victims, told New York's The Journal News that while the report explains the once mysterious accident, it does not justify it.

"This wasn't an act of God. This was her choice. She made the wrong choice," Guzzo said. "This isn't an accident. This is murder."

The co-owner of the upstate N.Y. campground said she knew Diane Schuler well and saw her off on the day of the accident.

"If she had alcohol on her breath, I sure didn't smell it," said Scott. "The last thing I said to her was 'have a safe trip home' and she said, 'We will' and that was the end of it.

Woman Takes Deadly Turn

Schuler was driving home from a New York campground on the Taconic State Parkway, a route she knew well, when she somehow ended up driving the wrong way in the fast lane into oncoming traffic.

During the drive, Schuler called her brother to tell him she wasn't feeling well. He asked her to pull over immediately. Schuler did not pull over, but her brother was worried enough to call the police.

Two hours after the call to her brother, police believe Schuler turned onto the parkway, heading down an exit ramp with signs clearly stating that she was heading the wrong way.

She drove in the fast lane, straight into traffic. Oncoming cars swerved to miss her.

One of the drivers in her path, Richard Rowe, managed to avoid a crash with Schuler who he said seemed "in total control."

"I don't understand. She was in total control of the car," Rowe said. "Maybe initially she was confused, but she had lots of time to correct her mistake. If we had been 30 seconds later, we would have been hit by her."

Three men in the SUV from Yonkers, N.Y., could not avoid Schuler. All three were killed in the head-on collision.

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