First breach in picture of Schuler as untroubled

Here’s new information about Diane Schuler, from today’s New York Post. She apparently was a regular big drinker and had been expressing unhappiness about her marriage. This is very different from the article in today’s New York Times, which, notwithstanding its headline, “Police Delve Into Mind-Set of Drunken Woman Whose Crash Killed Eight,” came up with nothing beyond her normal-appearing surface.

New York Post
August 6, 2009

The Long Island mother who drove bombed out of her mind with a minivan full of kids—triggering a head-on collision that killed 8—routinely bellied up to the bar and griped about her failing marriage and stressful job, a drinking buddy told The Post.

Diane Schuler, 36—who died in the wrong-way crash on the Taconic Parkway—recently “seemed under pressure, like work and family were getting to her,” said the pal, Sheila, who asked that her last name be withheld.

“Her marriage seemed a bit rocky, and I think she felt trapped by it,” the friend said of Schuler’s relationship with her husband, Daniel, a Nassau County public-safety officer. “For the last couple of months, she didn’t appear to be a happy woman.”

Schuler, a manager in Cablevision’s accounting department, would suck down screwdrivers at a Long Island saloon, where she was a regular the past few years and usually came by herself, her pal said, adding:

“I wouldn’t say she was an alcoholic, but she liked her drinks.

“She liked her vodka.”

A 1.75-liter bottle of Absolut was found in Schuler’s wrecked Ford Windstar after the fiery July 26 smash-up, which killed her, her 2-year-old daughter, her three young nieces and three Yonkers men in the SUV she hit.

The collision occurred after the troubled West Babylon resident drove south for 1.7 miles in the northbound lanes of the Taconic Parkway. She was high on marijuana and had the equivalent of 10 shots of booze in her stomach.

News of Schuler’s alcohol and drug abuse is a crushing blow, said her family, including her brother, Warren Hance, and his wife, Jackie, whose three young daughters died in the crash.

“Amidst all the uncertainties of how and why this accident occurred, this is the absolutely last thing that we ever would have expected,” the Hances said in a statement.

“We would never knowingly allow our daughters to travel with someone who might jeopardize their safety. Because we have never known Diane to be anything but a responsible and caring mother and aunt, this toxicology report raises more questions than it provides answers for the accident.”

Jackie’s mom, Phyllis Spagnuolo, told The Post, “The Hance family had no idea of what went on on the other side of the family. That makes it even more tragic.”

Daniel Schuler’s lawyer insisted to Fox 5 that his client’s wife had not been a heavy drinker or drug user and that their were no problems in the marriage.

“He’s suicidal,” Dominic Barbara said of Schuler.

He said Diane Schuler took the five children in her car that day because “everyone trusts her with kids … She drives 40 miles an hour.”

Schuler crashed about four hours after leaving a Sullivan County campground at around 9:30 a.m. as she was taking the kids back home.

A caller to WABC/Channel 7 said the campground at Hunters Lake—where Schuler and her family regularly stayed—is a known boozing area, where wild parties are the norm.

But owner Ann Scott insisted that such revelers are immediately thrown off the premises.

Scott also said Schuler appeared sober the morning she drove away with the kids and was not known to have boozed at the site.

After Schuler left the campground, she was next seen at a McDonald’s 11 miles away in Liberty, where witnesses also said she did not seem intoxicated, according to State Police Lt. Domenick Chiumento.

Her van was later spotted by several motorists driving erratically along Route 17 and I-87.

After crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge headed into Westchester County, Schuler called her brother to say she felt disoriented and was having trouble seeing.

During that call, Hance spoke with one of his daughters, but “he never indicated … to us” that she told him Schuler had been drinking or smoking, Chiumento said.

Anne Cuozzo, 37, who has lived across the street from the Schulers for seven years, said, “We never saw [Diane] drunk. Just like everyone else, this is news to us … They were very friendly. But who knows what really happens behind closed doors?”

The Schulers’ 5-year-old son, Bryan, who was the only survivor of the crash, has been moved out of the intensive-care unit at Westchester Medical Center, a source said. Daniel Schuler has maintained a round-the-clock vigil at Bryan’s bedside since the crash.

Additional reporting by Amber Sutherland, Rebecca Rosenberg, Kieran Crowley, Perry Chiaramonte and Larry Celona

[end of Post article]

- end of initial entry -

John Dempsey writes:

The police stated what would be the BAC (blood alcohol content) statistic for a woman with a 240 pound body weight according to the chart that the NY Times links. I have not seen a physical description of Diane Schuler, but it is entirely possible that she had 10 ounces of alcohol in her system. [LA replies: I’ve read that Diane Schuler was 5 foot 2.]

This sounds to me like a classic case of a “closet” alcoholic. For several years before I got sober, I would awaken to three or four stiff (double alcohol at minimum) drinks before getting showered and dressed for work. I am (and was) only 170 pounds. I always drank vodka at that time of day because it was much less detectable to those around me. My wife did not even know that I drank at that time of day. I would drive 20 miles to work most days with a blood alcohol level similar to that found in Mrs. Schuler’s body. I was what is called a “fully functional” alcoholic, performing my daily duties and tasks in a manner that was acceptable to my employer and co-workers. I had built up a tolerance to a rather high blood alcohol content and without it, I was much less functional.

However, there were several incidents where I would be functioning altogether normally, or what I considered normal for me at that time, and out-of-the-blue I would become totally disoriented and start doing things that made no sense at all. I would lose coherence in my speech, become physically unstable and mentally unbalanced. This sounds like what might have happened to Diane Schuler.

As for the marijuana found in her system, Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC stays in the system for many days and weeks. It might have been that she didn’t even smoke pot that day.

LA to John Dempsey.:
Thank you for this information. I was not aware of the extent of drinking possible for a functional alcoholic. Were you helped by AA?

John Dempsey replies:

Yes, AA saved my life. It is where I came to Christ in all my weakness. Through the grace of God one day at a time, I have not had a drink in more than 12 years. And I am mindful of the fact that all it will take is one drink, and I’ll be right back where I left off. So for today, I simply won’t drink.

Kathlene M. writes:

When I first read the stories about Diane Schuler, I thought instantly of a functioning alcoholic. Without going into a long story, I have had personal experience with an ex-boyfriend who was an alcoholic. Vodka was his preferred drink since it could not be detected on his breath. His tolerance was so high he could consume 1/2 bottle of vodka in a short period of time without seeming abnormal.

Here are my thoughts which are now corroborated by the NY Post article: First, wasn’t it strange that Diane Schuler called her brother and not her husband on that fateful day? Second, her husband had two different versions of where he was going that day: fishing and back home to Long Island. Third, most husbands would help their wives out when they have a huge vanload of kids to return to their homes after camping. I know mine would help. There’s no way my husband would abandon me in order to “go fishing” or “go home” to conclude a family camping trip. This made me instantly suspect that there were marital troubles. [LA replies: They did have two cars up there, and apparently his additional fishing trip was already planned. One story I read said that they had been going to this campground every summer weekend for the last three years, so the trip back home, while not short, was routine. Also, I haven’t seen any statement by Daniel lSchuler saying he was driving back home to Long Island at the same time that his wife was.]

Finally, Daniel Schuler recently stated that his wife wasn’t a drinker and suggested that perhaps diabetes or other health problems were to blame.

Well of course he’s going to say that. He’s facing possible lawsuits for the deaths of several people. If he knew his wife was a heavy drinker or a functioning alcoholic, why did he let her drive a van full of kids? Why wasn’t he helping out? But there is a small possibility that he wasn’t aware of his wife’s drinking, since some functioning alcoholics are very good at hiding their drinking.

Judging from Daniel Schuler’s recent pictures and the one (attached here) where he’s walking and talking with a lawyer, he seems like a guy who’s protecting himself from lawsuits. Some of the other pictures of him looking tearful look a bit too orchestrated.

Caption on the attached picture is: “Daniel Schuler, left, arrives at the offices of attorney Dominic Barbara, right, in Garden City, N.Y., Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009. Schuler’s wife Diane 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.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig).”


Kathlene continues:

I cannot find the article where it mentioned that the husband was headed home to Long Island after he and Diane parted ways, but I remember reading it. It wasn’t a quote from the husband, just something the reporter noted. There was no mention of fishing.

Now today I found this more detailed information in the New York Post:

The Schulers separately left the campgrounds at about 9:30 a.m. on July 26. Daniel was driving with the family dog in his Dodge pickup, while Diane was taking the children in her Ford Windstar minivan. Daniel could not follow Diane onto any parkway because his truck has commercial plates.

So now we have a new statement as to why Daniel couldn’t follow Diane: “Because his truck has commercial plates.

Why is this curiously detailed point being stated in this article? Probably because of this, from the New York Daily News:

Amid questions about whether Schuler’s relatives knew she was intoxicated, her husband, Daniel Schuler, hired prominent Long Island lawyer Dominic Barbara. They plan to hold a press conference Thursday.

The families of the three Yonkers men in the SUV said they plan to sue.

“Any person who was aware that she was drinking is an accomplice,” said Irving Anolik, lawyer for the Bastardi and Longo families. “She didn’t just wake up one morning with a drug problem and capable of drinking that much alcohol.” Anolik spoke to reporters after a morning meeting with the Westchester County district attorney. No criminal charges are expected since Schuler died in the crash. “If the driver were alive today the charges would have been second-degree murder,” Anolik said. “I believe there is a strong fragrance of criminality.

“We need to find out what her husband, brother, and other family members know,” he added. “Someone had to know, but that someone chose to say nothing, and now all these people are dead.”

And now the lawyer for Daniel Schuler is blocking a state police interview with Daniel Schuler:

Attorney blocks State Police interview with Diane Schuler’s husband

HAWTHORNE—As the family of Diane Schuler is now claiming that autopsy results on her body are not accurate and that an underlying medical condition may have caused her to have the crash that killed eight people including herself, Westchester County Medical Examiner Dr. Millard Hyland said he stands by those findings.

State Police also said Thursday that investigators went to Long Island for a pre-arranged interview with Schuler’s husband, Daniel; however, when they arrived they were not granted the interview and his attorney, Dominick Barbara could offer no useful information, the police said. And investigators were not advised by Barbara when Schuler would be made available for an interview.

Also on Thursday, State Police investigators also went to Long Island for a pre-arranged interview with the Hance family and their representatives. The Hances were Diane Schuler’s family. They were receptive to the State Police and very cooperative during the interviews, which continue.

LA replies:

Thank you for this. Why would Daniel Schuler refuse to talk with the police, unless he felt that he himself was vulnerable to some kind of criminal charge? Or perhaps he fears that anything he says to the police could be used by the Bastardi and Longo families in their civil suit.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 06, 2009 02:59 PM | Send

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