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Toxicology shows DUI involved in Taconic death drive

The mother who killed herself, her 2-year-old daughter, her three young Floral Park nieces and three men after she drove the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway late last month had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol and high levels of marijuana in her system at the time of the accident, New York State Police officials said Tuesday.

The toxicology report for Diane Schuler, 32, of West Babylon, L.I., found her blood-alcohol level to be .19 – more than 2 1/2 times the legal limit, said Maj. William Carey of the State Police during a news conference at the barracks in Hawthorne.

He said the report did not account for an additional 6 grams of alcohol in her stomach that had not been digested. A broken, 1.75 liter bottle of Absolut vodka was found in the car Schuler was driving, Carey said.

Schuler was driving the wrong way for 1.7 miles on the Taconic Parkway in Westchester July 26 before she collided with an SUV driven by Yonkers resident Guy Bastardi.

Schuler was killed in the accident along with her daughter, Erin; nieces Emma, 9, Alyson, 7, and Kate Hance, 5; Bastardi, 49; his father, Michael Bastardi, 81; and Bastardi family friend Daniel Longo, 74.

Schuler’s son Bryan, 5, survived the crash.

State Police officials also said Schuler also had high levels of marijuana in her system at the time of the fatal accident and they determined she smoked it between 15 minutes and one hour before the crash.

Before news of the toxicology report was circulated, Warren Hance, father of the Hance sisters, buried his children, niece and sister last week.

Hance, devastated by the death of his three daughters, urged mourners packed into a Floral Park, L.I., church last Thursday not to take their children’s lives for granted.

“Love your children, cherish your children, kiss your children. And don’t ever forget,” said the visibly distraught Hance, who was comforted by family members and helped down the steps of the altar at Our Lady of Victory during the funeral for his girls, sister and niece.

Floral Park residents packed the church and an overflow room was flooded with mourners. Neighbors assembled at Veterans Square opposite the church to listen to the funeral over loudspeakers.

In remembering his daughters, Hance said Emma had an “inquisitive mind” and was the “protective mother hen” for her younger sisters and Alison was the one with an infectious smile. When he asked who was the most beautiful girl in the world, he said Kate would always answer, “It’s me, Daddy.”

“No 5-year-old should ever look in the mirror that much,” he said of Kate to light laughter in the congregation.

Schuler’s 5-year-old son, whom Hance called the “miracle” in the middle of the tragedy, survived the crash and was expected to lead a “normal life,” Hance said.

Hance told of his family’s strong ties to Floral Park. His great-grandfather moved to the village about 100 years ago, both Hance and Schuler grew up there and Schuler has lived in Floral Park throughout his life.

Hance said his great-grandfather made “the right decision” by settling in Floral Park after Hance received heartwarming support from village residents in the wake of the tragedy.

“When you see us on the street, don’t look the other way,” he told his neighbors, noting that they did not have to offer any more condolences and thanked them for rallying around his family.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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