Wrong-way driver's in-law speaks out

A file photo of Daniel Schuler, right, holding A file photo of Daniel Schuler, right, holding hands with sisters-in-law, Jay Schuler, center, and Joyce Schuler, left, while surrounded by reporters during a new conference in Garden City. (Aug. 6, 2009) Photo Credit: AP

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A sister-in-law of Diane Schuler, whose horrific wrong-way drunken driving crash on the Taconic Parkway two years ago killed eight people, said she still can't believe Schuler would have done it -- and she participated in a new HBO documentary on the crash hoping to find answers.

"There's Something Wrong with Aunt Diane" is the title of the special, which aired last night. Jay Schuler, sister-in-law of Diane Schuler's husband, Daniel, told the "Today" show Monday morning: "I know it's very hard. . . . If you looked back at the type of person she was, she would never do such a thing. Where did she drink, when did she drink? How did she drink that much alcohol in that period of time?"

Schuler added: "There's so much unanswered. . . . I'm not saying anyone made any mistakes . . . but could anyone have done anything to alter results like that?"

Those results are the findings of a state police investigation into the July 26, 2009, crash -- which found that Diane Schuler, of West Babylon, had consumed the equivalent of 10 drinks and smoked marijuana before she drove her minivan southbound in the northbound lanes of the Taconic Parkway. Schuler died in the crash, which also killed her daughter, Erin, 2; nieces Emma, 8, Alyson, 7, and Kate Hance, 5, of Floral Park; and three people in a sport utility vehicle she hit head-on, Michael Bastardi Sr., 81, his son, Guy, 49, and family friend Daniel Longo, 74, all of Yonkers. Only her son, Bryan Schuler, then 5, survived.

Jackie Hance, mother of the three sisters who died, and her husband, Warren, who is Diane's brother, both refused to participate in the documentary, whose title is taken from the last words known to be spoken by Emma Hance -- in a frantic telephone call to her father.

The Hances are said to be upset with the documentary title. Director Liz Garbus told "Today" Monday she wouldn't have used the title had she known it would be offensive.

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In an article in the August edition of Ladies' Home Journal, Hance, 40, said: "People always ask how I feel about Diane. You can't imagine how complex that question is. How does a person go from being like a sister to me -- adored by my girls and cherished by my husband -- to being the one who ruined our lives?"

In the segment that appeared on "Today," the show ran a segment from the HBO documentary that had Daniel Schuler questioning whether his wife had been drinking.

"I want to know," Schuler said, "did she have a stroke or not, because what they're saying is not true, otherwise I wouldn't be doing this."

A recent Newsday review of the documentary reported that Garbus confirmed Daniel Schuler and his sister, Jay Schuler, both received a "stipend" to participate in the special, as did members of the Bastardi family. A book, "The Taconic Tragedy: A Son's Search for the Truth" by Jeanne Bastardi, the wife of Michael Bastardi Jr., was released last month.

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