Two families that lost multiple loved ones in the Taconic State Parkway crash that killed eight this past month have been angered by efforts to deflect attention away from the drinking and drug use of the at-fault driver, an attorney for one of the families said Wednesday.
Authorities have said Diane Schuler, 36, of West Babylon, was drunk and high on July 26 when she drove the wrong way on the Taconic for nearly two miles with a minivan full of children before plowing head-on into a sport utility vehicle in Westchester.
But Schuler's family has said she must have had a medical condition and held a nationally televised news conference last week to talk about her health issues.
That didn't sit well with Warren and Jackie Hance, the parents of three little girls - Schuler's nieces - who died in the minivan, or with the family of Guy Bastardi, 49, of Yonkers, and his father, Michael Bastardi, 81, who were killed when the minivan plowed into their SUV.
"I think everybody on my client's side and the Hances' side were somewhat upset, if not angry, over the publicity," said Irving Anolik, an upstate Nanuet attorney who represents the Bastardi family.
Warren Hance declined to comment Wednesday.
Dominic Barbara, a Garden City attorney who represents the Schulers and arranged the news conference, did not return messages seeking comment.
Anolik said the Hances and the Bastardis may soon meet to exchange condolences.
After Michael Bastardi's daughter, Roseann Guzzo, appeared on television Monday, the Hances' attorney, James McCrorie of Manhattan, called Anolik to set up the meeting, Anolik said. A date is still being worked out.
Guzzo's response, Anolik said, was: "That sounds like an interesting idea."
In an interview with Newsday, Anolik backed away from comments attributed to him in the New York Post and other publications that said the Hances did not want to have contact with the Schuler family. Warren Hance is Diane Schuler's brother.
"I was just speculating based on what I heard," Anolik said. "There's a lot of distortion in those stories."
Killed in the crash was Diane Schuler, her 2-year-old daughter, Erin, the Hances' three daughters, Emma, 8, Alyson, 7, and Kate, 5, and Daniel Longo, 74, of Yonkers, who was riding in the SUV with the Bastardis.