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A series of civil lawsuits have been filed by various family members of those killed or injured in an accident two years ago on the Taconic Parkway in New York State. The suits were filed in an attempt to place responsibility on those involved in the incident.
On July 26, 2009, while driving the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway, Diane Schuler crashed her van into an SUV, killing all but one of the passengers in her vehicle, and all three passengers in the SUV.
All told, the incident claimed the lives of Diane Schuler, her three nieces, ages 5, 7 and 8, her two year old daughter, Guy Bastardi, 49, Michael Bastardi Sr., 81, and Daniel Longo, 74. The only survivors were Diane Schuler’s five year old son, and both members of a third vehicle that was struck.
Initially Guy Bastardi’s sister filed a lawsuit against Diane Schuler’s estate for her negligent driving, and against the owner of the van, Diane’s brother, Warren Hance. Now two years later, Shuler’s husband Daniel Schuler has followed suit and right before the two-year statute of limitations expires, filed several lawsuits in a final attempt to place the blame for this accident on someone other than his wife.
He has sued the state of New York for not placing clear enough signs on the exit ramp to the Taconic Parkway, as well as his wife’s brother, Hance, because he was the owner of the van that Diane drove that fateful day and there may have been some mechanical failure with the vehicle that ultimately resulted in the tragedy.
Additionally, Hance and his wife, Jackie, have sued Schuler’s estate for the dangerous driving and fear that driving induced, which resulted in the deaths of their three young children. Longo’s brother, Joseph, has also filed a claim against Schuler’s estate for the wrongful death of his brother.
Initial toxicology reports from the autopsy indicated that Schuler had a blood alcohol content of .19, which is more than twice the legal limit in the state of New York, as well as high levels of marijuana. Daniel Schuler and Schuler’s sister, Jay, contended that she was not a drinker and she would never knowingly place her family at risk.
They spent thousands of dollars on lawyer Dominic Barbara and private investigator Thomas Ruskin to try to help clear her name of responsibility. A wide variety of theories were proposed including low blood sugar due to diabetes, an embolism, a stroke, a brain virus, an abscessed tooth or a migraine.
Eventually, as it came out in the recent documentary There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane, an independent lab retested Schuler’s blood to determine if the first toxicology report was accurate. In addition, the lab matched Schuler’s DNA to the toxicology report and determined once and for all that she really had alcohol and marijuana in her system at the time of the accident.
This was a difficult blow for Daniel, who felt sure that she must have had an abscessed tooth, and she wouldn’t have intentionally drank, especially with children in the vehicle. Daniel handled this new information by supposing that perhaps she self-medicated because she was in immense pain and accidentally drank too much vodka, or that she became delirious and thought the vodka was water.
In any case, there are several facts that cannot be denied. Diane Schuler, for reasons that may never be known, on the day of July 26, 2009 made the decision to ingest a large volume of vodka, later smoked several joints of marijuana, and, with five small children in the car, drove the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway for 1.7 miles before crashing into Guy Bastardi’s SUV, resulting in the deaths of eight individuals.
Perhaps with these new lawsuits, and the possibility of new information that it can uncover, the families of those involved can find some peace of mind and come to terms with their losses.