Wednesday, September 2, 2009

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — The body of a woman who killed herself and seven other people by driving a minivan the wrong way on a parkway and crashing into an SUV will be exhumed for testing in an attempt to counter findings that she was drunk, a family lawyer said Tuesday.

Attorney Dominic Barbara said Tuesday night on CNN’s “Larry King Live” that Diane Schuler could have suffered a minor stroke brought on by an abscess in her mouth.

“That’s what we want to look at,” Barbara said.

The July 26 crash on the Taconic State Parkway, just north of New York City, killed Schuler, her daughter and three young nieces in the minivan and three men in the SUV. Toxicology tests found the 36-year-old woman had been drinking heavily and smoking marijuana.

But her husband, Daniel Schuler, denied that possibility and hired Barbara and a private investigator. He said Tuesday he wants relatives of the other victims to know that “A drunk driver did not do this to your family.”

“I think she had a stroke,” he said. “Something to do with her teeth.”

Barbara said the just-released autopsy report found no evidence of chronic alcoholism in Diane Schuler’s liver, pancreas, stomach or esophagus.

He had previously suggested that diabetes or a lump on her leg could have caused her crash, and he said Tuesday it was possible that when her body was charred in the crash the sugar in her blood turned to alcohol.

During the show, statements were read from representatives of the family of Daniel Longo, one of the men killed in the SUV. One said Daniel Schuler’s refusal to accept that his wife was drunk is “appalling, offensive and hurtful.”

Schuler, of West Babylon, said his 5-year-old son, Bryan, the only survivor from the minivan, had broken arms and a broken leg and would make a full recovery. The boy is in a children’s hospital for rehabilitation.

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