- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (AP) | The husband of a suburban New York mother who caused a car crash that killed her and seven others said Thursday she didn’t have a drinking problem and suggested diabetes and other health problems were to blame.

“She was not a drinker. She was not an alcoholic,” Daniel Schuler said at a tearful news conference with his sister and lawyer. “Something medically had to have happened.”

Mr. Schuler’s attorney, Dominic Barbara, said the 36-year-old Cablevision executive had diabetes, a suspicious bump on her leg and a mouth abscess that hadn’t been treated for weeks before the deadly July 26 wreck.

“I think she had a stroke of some sort,” Mr. Barbara said. “From the stroke came all the other issues.”

Police say Diane Schuler downed more than 10 vodkas and smoked marijuana before driving her minivan nearly two miles on the Taconic State Parkway and slamming head-on into a sport-utility vehicle. Her 2-year-old daughter and three nieces were killed with her, along with three men in the SUV. Mrs. Schuler’s 5-year-old son survived.

Her blood alcohol level was more than twice the state’s legal limit, and she had smoked pot as soon as 15 minutes before the crash, according to toxicology reports from the Westchester County medical examiner’s office.

Mr. Schuler said that he never saw his wife drunk since he met her, and that the couple went through a normal routine on the Sunday before he last saw her at a campsite in upstate New York.

“She was fine,” he said. “We had a cup of coffee in the morning, we packed the cars up like we always do and we headed out.”

Mr. Schuler went fishing for the day, while Mrs. Schuler began a 140-mile trip home to Long Island with her children and three nieces, ages 5 to 8. The fiery wreck happened about four hours after she left, and after motorists called 911 to report her erratic driving on several roads.

Mr. Barbara said a frequent babysitter for the West Babylon couple never saw Mrs. Schuler drink or smoke pot. Her sister-in-law also defended her.

“Family was the most important thing to her,” Joy Schuler said. “There was no way she would ever jeopardize the children.”

The family has not decided whether to seek another autopsy for Mrs. Schuler and is awaiting more information from the county’s autopsy report, Mr. Barbara said.

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