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Husband denies Taconic crash driver was alcoholic

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The widower of the Long Island woman who fatally crashed her minivan while driving the wrong way on an upstate highway denied allegations that his wife was an alcoholic and knowingly drove their children home while under the influence of vodka and marijuana Thursday.

Speaking outside the Garden City offices of his attorney, Dominic Barbara, a teary eyed Daniel Schuler told reporters that he never once saw his wife drunk during their relationship.

A toxicology report released by the state police Tuesday indicated that Diane Schuler, 36, had a .19 blood alcohol level, twice the legal limit, and marijuana in her system when she crashed her minivan, which was carrying her 2-year-old daughter Erin, 5-year-old son Brian and her nieces, Emma, 9, Alison, 7, and Kate Hance, 5, on the Taconic Parkway July 26.

“She was fine. We had a cup of coffee in the morning, packed the car and headed out,” Daniel Schuler said of the morning of the accident.

The Schulers were driving south with their children and the Hance sisters, who live in Floral Park, following a camping trip upstate. Daniel Schuler said he drove back alone in a separate car because he had come to the campsite a day earlier to set up a camper and do some fishing.

Diane Schuler, who worked for Cablevision, was driving at high speed the wrong way for 1.7 miles on the highway before colliding with an SUV driven by Guy Bastardi, 49. Schuler, her daughter, the Hance sisters, Bastardi, his father Michael, 81, and their family friend Daniel Longo, 74, were killed.

Brian Schuler survived and was listed in stable condition as of Thursday at Westchester Medical Center, according to the family.

Police found a bottle of vodka inside the minivan and received a 911 call from another driver who noticed her driving the wrong way.

Barbara said that Diane Schuler suffered from several medical conditions that he believed caused her to crash. The attorney, who advised Daniel Schuler against speaking to the media, said that the mother of two had diabetes, a lump on her leg of unknown origin and a two-month-old abscess which she refused treatment for.

“Something happened to her brain. That doesn’t give me an answer … for the alcohol in her stomach or the marijuana allegedly there,” he said. “This is not a woman who would jeopardize five children.”

Schuler called her brother, Warren Hance, before the crash claiming that she felt disoriented. Barbara, a diabetic himself, said he did not consider the medical examiner’s test false but said that the conditions could have caused her to possibly imbibe.

“You might want to take something to self-medicate. I don’t know,” he said.

The attorney said that his client would wait for the medical examiner’s full report before deciding whether or not to get a second autopsy. Daniel Schuler also denied reports that he and his wife were having marital problems and considering a divorce.

“I loved my wife and we loved our children,” he said. “She was a perfect wife.”

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 6:32 pm, October 10, 2011
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