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Attorney: Schuler eyes stroke as crash cause

Taconic Parkway crash driver Diane Schuler

Taconic Parkway crash driver Diane Schuler Photo Credit: Handout

Searching for an alternative theory to explain the deadly wrong-way Taconic State Parkway crash, Diane Schuler's family has begun speaking with experts about a stroke-like condition that cannot be discovered by an autopsy, the family's attorney said Monday.

In other developments, Schuler's son, Bryan, 5, who survived the crash, has been released from Westchester Medical Center, a hospital spokesman said. It was not clear Monday whether Bryan, who suffered head injuries, went home or to another medical facility.

Photos of the tragic Taconic Parkway crash

The Schuler family attorney, Dominic Barbara of Garden City, said he is pursuing whether Diane Schuler suffered a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, a sudden disruption of blood flow to the brain lasting for less than an hour, a stroke expert told Newsday Monday. Among its symptoms are blurred vision and disorientation, the same problems New York State Police said Schuler described to her brother in a phone call 30 minutes before the July 26 crash.

"The doctors are coming in, and we're talking to them," said Barbara, in a brief interview at his office. He did not name the physicians.

Authorities say Schuler, 36, of West Babylon, was drunk and high on marijuana when she drove a minivan full of children nearly two miles the wrong way on the Taconic before colliding with an SUV in Westchester, killing herself and seven others. She had the equivalent of 10 drinks, authorities said, and 6 grams of undigested alcohol in her stomach.

Also killed in the minivan were Schuler's daughter, Erin, 2, and her three nieces, Emma Hance, 8, Alyson Hance, 7, and Kate Hance, 5. Three Yonkers men died in the sport utility vehicle.

The New York State Police and Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore will meet next Tuesday for "a top-to-bottom review and a progress report on the case," DiFiore spokesman Lucian Chalfen said. Authorities have not yet decided whether to open a grand jury probe in the case.

Schuler's family has said the doting mother, a manager at


, which owns Newsday, had no drinking problem and must have suffered some kind of medical catastrophe.

Dr. Ted Lowenkopf, medical director of the Providence Stroke Center in Portland, Ore., said a TIA is not detectable by autopsy because the interruption of blood flow to the brain does not last long enough to cause permanent damage.

"The only way a TIA could be fatal is if the symptoms occurred when you need your faculties intact," he said.

But Lowenkopf said autopsies can show underlying conditions that cause a TIA, including narrowing arteries and a damaged heart. Westchester authorities said the autopsy showed no underlying conditions.

Barbara acknowledged the TIA theory was incomplete. "If it wasn't for the alcohol still in her stomach, this would explain it," he said.

The family of two of the Yonkers victims - Michael Bastardi, 81, and his son, Guy Bastardi, 49 - said they don't believe Diane Schuler had a medical condition and took to the airwaves Monday to blast her husband, Daniel, who has said he never saw his wife drunk. "He's in denial. Somewhere along the line you have to know somebody can drink like that," Roseann Guzzo said in a "Today" show interview with NBC's Matt Lauer.

With Joseph Mallia

Photos of the tragic Taconic Parkway crash

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