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Wrong-Way Taconic Mom Not an Alcoholic, Family Says Autopsy Shows

She was drunk. But she wasn't an alcoholic. That's what Diane Schuler's family says the autopsy showed.
/ Source: NBCNewYork.com

She was drunk. But she wasn't an alcoholic.

The family of the woman who was drunk and high when she drove her minivan the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway and slammed into an SUV, killing eight people, is capitalizing on the results of an autopsy that they say shows Diane Schuler wasn't an alcoholic.

An investigator hired by her husband, Daniel Schuler, says the medical examiner's report, which the family received last week, shows no sign of cirrhosis – a sure indication of a habitual drinker.

"The autopsy supports the claims of over 50 Diane Schuler's friends and family members who have never once seen this woman drunk," investigator Thomas Ruskin told the Daily News Saturday.

Schuler had a blood alcohol level of 0.19 – more than twice the legal limit – at the time of the crash and had smoked marijuana as early as 15 minutes before, officials say. Relatives of the mother of two have decried allegations she had substance abuse problems. The lack of cirrhosis revealed in the coroner's report is the first time the family has been able to respond with what they perceive as hard proof against those charges.

Ruskin said the coroner's report also showed no indication of esophagus erosion – another son of long-term alcohol abuse, reports the News.

"It shows that Diane's liver and pancreas have no signs of alcoholic disease," Ruskin said of the 20-page report.

Daniel Schuler has adamantly maintained his wife had no drinking or drug problem, and that some strange medical mystery was to blame for the crash. The autopsy indicated no "medical mystery" that could have been responsible; it showed Schuler had consumed the equivalent of 10 shots of vodka and had high levels of THC, the main chemical ingredient in marijuana, at the time of the deadly crash.

The Long Island mother was driving home from a camping trip when she got on the Taconic and drove nearly two miles in the wrong direction before plowing head-on into an SUV. Schuler, her daughter, three nieces and three men from Yonkers in the SUV were killed in the collision. Only Schuler's 5-year-old son, Bryan, survived.

Lawyers for the family of two of the Yonkers men killed in the crash dismiss Ruskin's interpretation of the autopsy results as a plus in the Schuler's column.

"The lengths these people are taking to deny reality are just astounding and painful to my clients," Irving Anolik, attorney for the Bastardis, told the News. "The fact remains that Diane Schuler was drunk and high when she killed all these people and the facts aren't going to change."

The Bastardis, who intend to sue Daniel Schuler in civil court, have their own concerns about the autopsy. They wanted officials to test hair follicle samples from Diane Schuler, which can reveal drug use dating back for two months. Weschester officials confirmed a hair follicle test hadn't been conducted, and one said that such tests typically weren't used in accident investigations.