GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (AP) A Long Island mother was drunk and high on marijuana when she drove the wrong way for almost two miles on a highway before smashing head-on into an SUV, killing herself and seven others, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
The fiery July 26 crash on the Taconic Parkway killed the woman, her 2-year-old daughter, three young nieces and three men in the SUV. The woman's 5-year-old son survived. The occupants of a third vehicle sustained minor injuries.
A medical examiner found Diane Schuler's blood-alcohol level was 0.19, more than twice the state's legal limit of 0.08, Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore said in a statement Tuesday. The autopsy also revealed that Schuler was impaired by marijuana, DiFiore said.
State police have been investigating why the businesswoman, who was a regular visitor to an upstate New York campground, would have been driving toward her Long Island home the wrong way on a highway she reportedly had driven many times.
Investigators did not immediately comment on the prosecutor's report.
Schuler's husband, Daniel Schuler, told investigators that everything seemed fine when he and his wife left a Sullivan County campground at about 9:30 a.m. He went on a fishing trip while his wife headed home with the children.
Diane Schuler, 36, wound up going south in the northbound lanes as motorists sought in vain to get her attention. Six drivers called 911 before the collision, which happened about 35 miles northwest of New York City.
Witnesses reported seeing Schuler's red Ford minivan driving erratically, state police said Monday. They said the van was straddling two lanes, tailgating, flashing its headlights and beeping the horn.
Others saw the vehicle veering from one lane to another and one witness said it appeared as if she was attempting to pass him on the shoulder of the highway. Another witness said the van drove across a grass divider at a service area.
Schuler called her brother — the father of the three nieces who died — just after 1 p.m., saying she was feeling ill and may have been disoriented. The brother, Warren Hance, told her to stay put and he would come to meet her, but she apparently disregarded those instructions.
An attorney who served as a family spokesman at funerals last week did not immediately return a telephone message left by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Floral Park village police blocked access to the Hance home and said no one was there to comment. There was no answer when a reporter knocked on the door of the Schuler family home in West Babylon.