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No criminal charges filed in Taconic crash case

Daniel Schuler walks with his sister-in-law after he

Daniel Schuler walks with his sister-in-law after he spoke to the media in Garden City. (Aug. 6, 2009) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Authorities said Tuesday they cannot prove that Daniel Schuler, or anyone else, knew Diane Schuler was going to drink and get high the day she caused a fiery Taconic State Parkway crash that killed eight people, including four Long Island children.

Photos: Deadly Taconic wrong-way crash claims 8

After three weeks of interviewing witnesses, reviewing security videos and tracking cell phone calls, New York State Police and Westchester prosecutors said Tuesday they had no evidence to file criminal charges against anyone, including Daniel Schuler, whose wife had a 0.19 blood-alcohol content and marijuana in her system when she drove the wrong way on the Taconic and crashed head on into a sport utility vehicle.

"Diane Schuler . . . died in the crash and the charges died with her," said Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore at a news conference in White Plains. "Our investigation has not uncovered any criminal conduct on the part of other individuals."

Daniel Schuler's attorney, Dominic Barbara, praised the decision to not file charges, which came a day after Sullivan District Attorney Stephen Lungen said charges in his county were unlikely.

His client, however, still faces a probe by Suffolk Child Protective Services, which wants to know if Schuler could have done anything to protect his children from his wife.

Barbara predicted Schuler will maintain custody of his son Bryan, 5, who survived the crash.

Yesterday's announcement mostly ends law enforcement's role in the deadly July 26 crash, but private attorneys for three Westchester victims who died said they would pursue lawsuits against Schuler's family. Michael Bastardi Jr., the son of Michael Bastardi, 81, and brother of Guy Bastardi, 49, who both died, said he supported "100 percent" the district attorney's decision not to file charges.

Diane Schuler, 36, of West Babylon, drove for nearly two miles the wrong way on the Taconic before crashing her brother's Ford minivan into the SUV carrying the Bastardis and Daniel Longo, 74, all from Yonkers.

Schuler, the Bastardis and Longo were killed in the crash, as were Schuler's daughter, Erin, 2, and her three nieces, Emma Hance, 8; Alyson Hance, 7; and Kate Hance, 5.

Authorities had no answers to nagging questions that have propelled the crash into the national spotlight, including why Diane Schuler - described by family as a loving mother and competent manager at Cablevision, which owns Newsday - would put her children and her brother's daughters at risk.

"We don't know what triggered her," DiFiore said.

Her husband has said she was not an alcoholic and insists that some medical condition must have played a role. But DiFiore said Tuesday that no underlying medical conditions were found, and no witnesses saw her drunk that day or knew her to drink heavily or smoke marijuana.

State Police Maj. William Carey said questions remain about the credibility of some witnesses, including Daniel Schuler, but he said investigators could find nothing to contradict the contention that Schuler was anything more than a "social drinker."

"Sometimes there's no way to confirm or refute what people tell us," Carey said.

He said Daniel Schuler "has answered a lot of our questions; he has not answered all of them," including questions about his wife's past marijuana use. "Mr. Schuler cooperated to the extent his lawyer would permit him," DiFiore said.

Barbara said he would not allow questions about the Schulers' past marijuana use because they were "irrelevant." State police have said that in their initial interview with Daniel Schuler, he said his wife occasionally smoked pot.

Photos: Deadly Taconic wrong-way crash claims 8

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