Video: Police: Mother in crash was drunk, on drugs

updated 8/5/2009 7:19:34 PM ET 2009-08-05T23:19:34

Family members of a mother who killed herself and seven others by driving the wrong way with a vanload of children on a highway are stunned by news she was drunk and high at the time, her brother and sister-in-law said Wednesday.

"This is the absolute last thing that we ever would have expected" of Diane Schuler, Warren and Jackie Hance said in a statement. "We would never knowingly allow our daughters to travel with someone who might jeopardize their safety."

The Hances' three daughters, their only children, were killed along with Schuler, Schuler's 2-year-old daughter and three men from Yonkers, N.Y. Schuler's minivan crashed into the men's SUV while she was driving the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway north of New York City. Schuler's 5-year-old son survived the crash.

Schuler, 36, had a blood-alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit. She had downed at least 10 drinks and had smoked marijuana as recently as 15 minutes before the July 26 wreck, police said Tuesday.

‘Shocked and deeply saddened’
Police had said no criminal charges were expected, although families of the three Yonkers men met with Westchester County prosecutors earlier Tuesday.

The Hances, who live in Floral Park, said they were "shocked and deeply saddened" by the findings that Schuler was drunk.

"Because we have never known Diane to be anything but a responsible, caring mother and aunt, this toxicology report raises more questions than it provides answers for our family," the Hances said in a statement read by Stephen Spagnuolo, Jackie Hance's brother.

The family said they would cooperate with authorities trying to piece together Schuler's route. State police had said earlier they had received limited cooperation from the family.

State police Lt. Dominick Chiumento said investigators initially did not believe drugs or alcohol were involved because there was no obvious evidence at the crash scene.

A broken, 1.75-liter bottle of vodka was found days after the crash when the police collision reconstruction unit began examining debris from the vehicle.

"You couldn't see it at first. I even looked at photos of the van and wouldn't have been able to see it," Chiumento said.

Schuler crashed her brother's red Ford minivan about four hours after leaving an upstate campground where she spent the weekend with her husband, two children and three nieces.

Ann Scott, co-owner of the Hunter Lake Campground in Parksville, said Schuler had not been drinking when she left.

"I've never seen her with a drink in her hand," Scott said Wednesday. "If she had alcohol on her breath, I would have smelled it, believe me."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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