Diane Schuler was a 36-year-old suburban housewife from Long Island, New York who apparently was hiding a deep secret.
Last week, her secrets led to the death of seven people and herself in a head-on collision on a New York State Parkway.
Authorities say Schuler, of West Babylon, had a blood-alcohol content twice the legal limit at 0.19, the equivalent of about 10 drinks and had ingested marijuana shortly before the July 26 accident. The medical examination found tetrahydrocannabinol, the main active ingredient in marijuana, and six grams of undigested alcohol in her stomach, reports Newsday.
Police also report they found a broken bottle of Absolut vodka in the Ford Windstar van she was driving.
On July 26, Schuler headed south around 9:30 a.m. with a car full of kids - her daughter Erin, 2, and three nieces, Emma Hance, 8; Alyson Hance, 7; and Kate Hance, 5; and her son, Bryan, 5.
Her husband left the campground in a separate vehicle as she planned to stop and have breakfast with the kids.
New York State Police Major William Carey received reports a woman seen driving aggressively on the New York State Thruway and Route 17. She stopped along the way to tell her brother, and father of her nieces she wasn’t feeling well and was having trouble seeing and was feeling disoriented.
A motorist later found her cell phone at the pull-off area near the Tappan Zee Bridge and turned it into police.
At 1:35 she reportedly entered the Taconic driving south on a northbound exit ramp for nearly two miles before colliding head-on with an SUV.
The girls and Schuler were killed. Her son was the only survivor and is still recovering at Westchester Medical Center.
The three men inside the SUV, all from Yonkers, were killed. They are identified as Daniel Longo, 74, Michael Bastardi, 81, and Guy Bastardi, 49.
Drugs And Driving
“With a blood alcohol level at that particular range, there are difficulties in perception, judgment and memory,” says Elizabeth Spratt, who helped process the tests at the Westchester Laboratory to Newsday.
Marijuana, if smoked right before driving, would enhance the effect of alcohol, causing tunnel vision, reports Dr. Constantine Ioannou of the Nassau University Medical Center to Newsday.
Because of the drugs involved, the crash has been classified as a homicide.
Family Didn’t Know?
What’s unclear is whether her family was aware of a drinking problem and was aware she was drinking that day. Schuler, who worked as a manager for Cablevision, was described as a trustworthy and caring mother. Her family reportedly was surprised at the results of her autopsy.
State Police Senior Investigator Robert Bennett tells Newsday, “The bottom line is he was unable to give us any information that would explain the circumstances of that accident.”
The owners of the campground, Hunter Lake in Parksville, say Schuler seemed “sober as a judge” when she departed. Her friends reportedly are in disbelief.
The community of Floral Park where Schuler grew up, reported an increase in church attendance after the accident and community residents report they are praying for the families. Residents are reacting with a mixture of disbelief and disgust.
Schuler reportedly had a clean driving record and no known medial or mental health problems.
Every year more than 17,000 people are killed in drunk driving accidents in the U.S. and 500,000 are injured. That equates to one alcohol-related accident every 32 minutes. #