No Charges in Fatal Wrong-way Crash

The mangled SUV was towed away after a family's minivan going in the wrong direction crashed into in and another car on a suburban parkway in New York July 26, 2009, killing eight people, including four children. WCBS

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.

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.

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.

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 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, the son of one of the crash victims in the SUV, said of police and prosecutors.
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