Bastardi family speaks about Taconic crash

November 15, 2009 7:42:05 PM PST
Police have narrowed the timeline for when Diane Schuler may have started binge drinking. Investigators learned Schuler appeared fine when she stopped in a McDonald's. That was about an hour after she started to drive and one hour before the crash.

The family of the men inside the other car told me for as many answers they get, they end up with even more questions.

"You hear about this and you read about this, but you never think it's going to happen to your family," Marghie Nicotina said.

Roseann Guzzo and Marghie Nicotina feel like they're victims a second time.

First, the day they found out their father, Michael Bastardi Sr., and their brother, Gus, died.

Then again, when Diane Schuler's husband, Daniel, insisted his wife was not a drinker.

"He can believe whatever he wants, but he cannot fight science, the integretity of Westchester County D.A., medical examiner and the entire police force," Guzzo said.

Tests show Schuler had more than 10 vodkas and was high on marijuana with her two children and three nieces inside her van.

Schuler's husband suggests anything from a stroke to gestational diabetes, even an abscessed tooth, could have led to her driving the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway.

The Bastardi family wants to know if anyone knew Diane Schuler was intoxicated.

"Kids, adults, anybody. If you're with somebody and you know that they have been drinking or smoking, do whatever you have to do. Do not (let them) drive," Nicotina said..

Schuler, 36, was killed along with her 2-year-old daughter, three nieces aged 5, 7 and 8 and the three men in the SUV. Her 5-year-old son survived.

Daniel Schuler has said he noticed nothing suspicious when he and his wife left in separate vehicles from the campground that Sunday morning. He headed home to Long Island with the family dog, and she planned to stop at a McDonald's in Liberty, N.Y., not far from the campground.

State police said Friday that after interviewing employees at a McDonald's about 15 miles from the Hunter Lake campsite, "there was no indication of any illness or impairment during the time she was there."

Schuler left with her children in the minivan between 10:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m., police said. The last time she was heard from was a cell phone call she made at 1:02 p.m., from a parking area south of the Tappan Zee Bridge, only a few miles from where the fatal collision took place, they said.

An investigator hired by Daniel Schuler's attorney has said that three other telephone calls were made earlier in the journey but has not revealed details of those calls. In the final phone call, Schuler's 8-year-old niece told her father that Schuler wasn't feeling well and had trouble seeing and speaking.

Diane Schuler's autopsy found she had a blood alcohol level of 0.19 percent, more than twice the legal limit for driving, and a high level of the key ingredient in marijuana in her system when she crashed.

Several relatives reacted with shock to the revelation that the woman they said was a trustworthy, responsible mother and aunt would have been severely intoxicated.

In the middle of this tragedy, the Bastardi family is thinking about others. They're joining organizations to help prevent driving under the influence. It's one way they hope to cope with the pain.

"We have to go on with our lives too. The pain is not going to go away, but we have to live with it," Guzzo said.

Police said Wednesday that no criminal charges were planned.

A lawyer for the Bastardi family have suggested charges might be possible against anyone who knew Schuler had been drinking before the crash. He said his clients also would explore a possible civil case.



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