The investigation of the collision has drawn nationwide attention, as Diane Schuler's family has battled the conclusion that Schuler was heavily intoxicated at the time of the crash.
A toxicology report released on August 4 by Westchester County medical examiners found that Schuler had a blood-alcohol content of 0.19, with approximately ten drinks in her stomach that had not yet been absorbed into her blood. The legal BAC limit is 0.08. The report also said she had "high levels" of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in her system and had smoked marijuana as late as 15 minutes prior to the collision.
Diane Schuler's husband, Daniel Schuler, and his attorney Dominic Barbara have consistently denied that Diane Schuler ever drank to excess or could have been drunk while driving that day. Other Schuler relatives have also disputed that Diane Schuler was known to drink heavily or irresponsibly. The campground co-owner, who claimed to know the Schulers well and saw them off at approximately 9 AM that morning, said that Schuler appeared sober when she left; the gas station employee whom Schuler asked for Tylenol around 11 AM also said he "[knew] for a fact she wasn't drunk when she came into the station." A private investigator hired by Daniel Schuler told reporters in September that he had interviewed over fifty people who knew Diane, none of whom had ever seen her in a drunk state. The investigator, Daniel Ruskin, also pointed to autopsy results that showed an absence of organ damage often found in alcoholics, although an uninvolved medical examiner said such results do not rule out alcoholism.
Daniel Schuler told investigators that his wife smoked marijuana occasionally, and the family told People magazine that she used it to relieve insomnia. Although Daniel Schuler is an officer in the Public Security Unit of the Nassau County Police Department, he was not required to report his wife's drug use because he is a civilian.
Schuler and Barbara have publicly attributed Schuler's erratic driving to a medical issue, such as a stroke. According to Barbara, Diane Schuler suffered from diabetes; Barbara has also mentioned an abscess that had persisted in her mouth for seven weeks before her death, and a lump in her leg that he said "might have been an embolism." The results of an autopsy conducted by a Westchester County medical examiner one day after the accident found that Schuler had not suffered a stroke, aneurysm or heart attack. Before the toxicology report was issued, New York State Police investigators told reporters that Schuler's behavior reminded them of similar accidents involving complications from diabetes.
In September, New York's top forensic pathologist said that a hair test should have been done to determine Diane Schuler's drug history. Daniel Schuler and his lawyer announced plans to exhume the body to perform the hair test and other examinations; experts said this was unlikely to produce any new information of value. Schuler is also intending to re-test the fluid samples taken during the autopsy. The Westchester County medical examiner's office, which performed the autopsy, said that the degradation of the fluids over time is likely to result in lowered alcohol and THC readings; however, several toxicology experts said the results should be similar to the previous test if the fluid samples have been properly stored.
The crash was ruled a homicide soon after it occurred, before the toxicology report was filed, because the victims were killed due to Diane Schuler's driving, according to a Westchester medical examiner. On August 18, Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore said that no charges would be filed in the incident, as Diane Schuler was the only person responsible. "Diane Schuler died in the crash and the charges died with her," DiFiore said.
Daniel Schuler's persistence in disputing his wife's intoxication has been condemned by family members of the three men in the car Schuler collided with, all of whom were killed in the accident: 81-year-old Michael Bastardi, his son 49-year-old Guy Bastardi, and their friend, 74-year-old Dan Longo. When Schuler appeared on CNN in September to demand more testing of his wife's remains, Longo's brother Joseph issued a statement saying in part, "I want Daniel Schuler to know that he keeps inflicting more pain on all concerned once again going to the media to try and paint a picture of a perfect wife and mother."
Michael Bastardi's daughters appeared with their lawyer on The Today Show, where they questioned Daniel Schuler's culpability in enabling his wife's drug and alcohol use and called for him to undergo drug testing himself. "It makes me angry that he keeps denying it,” Nicotina said. "Every time he does it, he brings it back for us. I just wish that he would just admit that she was drunk, maybe if he knows what happened that morning, if they argued or anything, that would be the truth. He wants the truth. So do we." Their lawyer called Schuler's position "totally outrageous," "an insult to the intelligence of the American public" and "a hoax."
- Lam, C., Schuler's husband meets again with State Police, New York Newsday, August 14, 2009.
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- Fitz-Gibbon, Jorge and Shawn Cohen. "Husband: Wrong-way driver didn't drink." USA Today, 2009-08-06.
- Amon, Michael. "ME: Schuler retests will show lower alcohol content." Newsday, 2009-09-08.
- "Wrong-Way Crash: "Diane Would Not Do This." CBS News, 2009-08-07.
- Ali, Aman. "Victims' families express revulsion at Schuler's TV appearance." The Journal News, 2009-09-03.
- Crowley, Kieran and Ginger Adams Otis. "Crash Ma Was A Toker." New York Post, 2009-08-17.
- Lysiak, Matthew. "Family of victims in deadly Taconic crash support Gov. Paterson's plan to toughen DWI laws." New York Daily News, 2009-08-14.
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- "AUTOPSY: WRONG-WAY CRASH DRIVER NOT AN ALCOHOLIC." New York Post, 2009-09-02.
- Amon, Michael. "Expert: Diane Schuler should have had hair drug test." Newsday, 2009-09-01.
- New York Times Topics: Diane Schuler, New York Times, 2009-08-06.
- Amon, Michael. "Authorities: Autopsy offers no explanation for crash." Newsday, 2009-07-28.
- "No Charges in Fatal Wrong-way Crash." CBS News, 2009-08-18.
- Celizic, Mike. "Family of wrong-way driver’s victims fires back." MSNBC, 2009-09-04.