Husband of Wrong-Way Driver Says She Didn't Drink

Lawyer indicates the family is considering exhuming body for second autopsy.

ByMark Mooney and Lee Ferran via via logo
August 06, 2009, 1:35 PM

Aug. 6, 2009— -- The husband of the woman who police say killed eight people by driving drunk and stoned the wrong way on a New York highway insisted today the toxicology reports cannot be correct.

"My heart is at rest every night I go to bed. She did not drink," Daniel Schuler told a news conference 11 days after the horrific crash on the Taconic State Parkway.

Schuler's wife, Diane, is blamed for the July 26 head-on collision that killed her daughter and three of her nieces when she plowed into an SUV. Three men in the SUV also died. The only person to survive was Schuler's 5-year-old son.

A police toxicology report released this week concluded that Schuler had the equivalent of 10 drinks still in her stomach and had consumed a high amount of marijuana.

"No way, it can't be true," said Diane Schuler's sister-in-law Joy Schuler at the news conference. "There is no way she would ever jeopardize the children."

Schuler's husband said he never once saw his 36-year-old wife drunk since he met her.

"She did not drink. She was not an alcoholic," he insisted. "Something medically had to have happened."

"She was the perfect wife, an outstanding mother, hard worker, reliable person, trustworthy. I'd marry her again tomorrow," Daniel Schuler said while trying to hold back tears.

Dominic Barbara, a lawyer for the Schuler family, said Diane Schuler was diabetic and suggested that may have contributed to her disoriented condition that morning. He also suggested that Schuler may have suffered a stroke.

Barbara said the family had not yet decided whether to exhume the body for a second autopsy.

Barbara asked anyone with information about Schuler or the events leading to the crash to contact his investigators at the CMP Group in New York.

The families of the three men who died in the SUV have indicated they might sue whoever allowed Schuler to drive drunk.

"Any person who was aware that she was drinking is an accomplice," said Irving Anolik, a lawyer for the families of Guy Bastardi, 49, Michael Bastardi, 81, and Daniel Longo, 74, who died in the crash. "She didn't just wake up one morning with a drug problem and capable of drinking that much alcohol." Anolik made his warning Wednesday.

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.

Wrong Way Crash Is Ruled a Homicide

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 broken bottle of vodka was found at the crash scene, New York State Police Major William Carey said at a press conference earlier this week.

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

"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 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.

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.

Surviving Driver: She Was 'In Control'

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."

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