Taconic Wrong-Way Crash: No Criminal Charges To Be Filed

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The only person who could have been charged in a wrong-way crash that killed eight people was the drunken and stoned woman who caused the wreck and died in it, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

There was no evidence that Diane Schuler had been drinking or smoking marijuana before she and her husband left in separate vehicles from an upstate campground on July 26 to drive back to their home in West Babylon, Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore said.

"Diane Schuler died in the crash and the charges died with her," DiFiore told reporters.

A spokesman for the families of two victims said a civil lawsuit is likely, however.

Schuler drove the wrong way for nearly two miles on the Taconic State Parkway in Westchester County last month before her minivan slammed into an SUV, authorities said. The fiery crash killed Schuler, her 2-year-old daughter, three young nieces and three men in the SUV. Her 5-year-old son survived and is being treated at a Queens rehabilitation center. He has not been questioned, state police said Tuesday.

A smashed bottle of vodka was found in the wreckage of Schuler's minivan. An autopsy that found she had a 0.19 blood-alcohol reading at the time of the crash, well above the legal limit of 0.08, and had smoked marijuana no more than an hour before the wreck.

Schuler's husband, Daniel, and other relatives have disputed the medical examiner's conclusion. They also rejected any suggestion the 36-year-old cable company executive would have smoked marijuana and then driven with her children and nieces in the van. But DiFiore said there was no other explanation.

Daniel Schuler's attorney, Dominic Barbara, did not immediately return a telephone message left Tuesday by The Associated Press. Barbara has floated a variety of explanations for Diane Schuler's intoxication, including suggesting she may have been self-medicating for an infected tooth.

Daniel Schuler, a Nassau County public safety officer who is assigned to a security detail at a park, cooperated with investigators "to the extent his lawyer allowed him to," state police Maj. William Carey said. When asked for clarification, Carey said Daniel Schuler declined to answer any questions regarding marijuana use.

DiFiore said it is still not clear why Diane Schuler had smoked marijuana within an hour of the crash, or why she was so intoxicated. The autopsy did not reveal any long-term damage from drinking, and Carey said the investigation had confirmed only that Schuler was a social drinker.

"The question of personal or moral responsibility may never be known," the prosecutor said.

DiFiore made the decision not to file charges after a three-week investigation and a meeting Tuesday with state police and some victims' relatives.

"I'm behind them 100 percent," Michael Bastardi Jr., son of one of the crash victims and brother of another, said of police and prosecutors.

But Irving Anolik, spokesman for the Bastardi family, said a civil lawsuit, possibly against Daniel Schuler, would likely be filed within a few months, after the criminal findings are made available. He lampooned Barbara's explanations and said Schuler should concede his wife had problems with drinking and drugs.

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Associated Press Writer Frank Eltman contributed to this report.