An investigator for Diane Schuler family's Thursday cited new evidence that the wrong-way driver was sober the morning of the Taconic State Parkway crash: She made an upstate McDonald's employee cook one of her son's favorite foods, Chicken Selects, for breakfast.
When a cashier balked because Chicken Selects - chicken strips - is made only for lunch and dinner, Schuler, 36, of West Babylon, called on a manager to intervene, said Thomas Ruskin of the CMP investigative agency. Schuler's son, Bryan, 5, got what he wanted.
"She had a lot of interaction with the counter person," Ruskin said. "And she was never out of the view of a surveillance camera. There was no point at which she could have snuck a flask."
Ruskin's story differs from a New York State Police report. In that, a cashier at the upstate Liberty McDonald's said in an affidavit nothing was "out of the ordinary about the woman or children." The cashier did not mention what Schuler ordered or that she called on management.
"The woman was very pleasant and did not appear to be ill or not well," the cashier's affidavit said. "The woman did not appear to be intoxicated nor did she smell of alcohol."
Ruskin declined to cite his source for the information. State police did not return calls.
An official who has viewed security footage of Schuler at the McDonald's said she appeared to have a lengthy conversation at one point with the cashier. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not know what was said.
Schuler, her two children and three nieces were at the McDonald's from 9:56 a.m. to 10:33 a.m., leaving about three hours before she smashed head-on into a sport utility vehicle, killing eight.
Authorities say Schuler had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.19 percent and marijuana in her system, which her family disputes.
If she was sober at the McDonald's, Ruskin said, "it means you have a smaller time frame . . . for her to consume the amount of alcohol and pot that the toxicology report leads you to be believe."