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Private investigator: Schuler's cell made 2 calls, got 2

Taconic Parkway crash driver Diane Schuler

Taconic Parkway crash driver Diane Schuler Photo Credit: Handout

Diane Schuler's cell phone received two calls and two calls were made from her phone between when she left an upstate campground and crashed on the Taconic Parkway, an investigator working with her husband's attorney said Saturday.

>> Click here to see new family photos of the Schulers, and photos from Daniel Schuler's press conference

The claims by Tom Ruskin go beyond earlier State Police statements, which said that Schuler called her brother from a pulloff near the Tappan Zee Bridge about 1 p.m. July 26 to say she was sick. That was just a half-hour before the fiery crash that killed Schuler and seven others.

State Police had said that multiple calls were made from the phone but didn't say when they were made.

Schuler left an upstate campground shortly after 9 a.m. Schuler, 36, of West Babylon, was shuttling home her daughter Erin, 2, son Bryan, 5, and nieces Kate, 5, Alyson, 7, and Emma, 8, of Floral Park. Schuler, her husband and the children had spent the weekend at the campground.

Police have said she called her brother, Warren Hance, about 1 p.m., saying she felt disoriented and was having trouble seeing.

But Schuler first called her brother at 11:37 and did not mention anything out of the ordinary, said Ruskin, who is working with attorney Dominic Barbara. Ruskin said Schuler told Hance "in essence, she's en route, she's hit a little traffic, but the nieces . . . would be home in time for their afternoon activities."

A Schuler relative - not her husband, Daniel - made a two-minute call to the phone at 12:08 p.m., Ruskin said. "We haven't been able to speak to that person yet, so I can't really comment on it," he said.

At 12:58 p.m., someone called Hance again from the phone, Ruskin said. Diane Schuler and Emma, Hance's daughter, spoke with him. Ruskin said the call appears to have been dropped at 1:01 p.m., and Hance immediately called back. The line was open nine more minutes, Ruskin said.

Ruskin said he hopes to ask State Police and Westchester prosecutors this week the names of people who called 911 to report Schuler driving the wrong way or a minivan like hers driving erratically.

"What I know now is that it took her from 10:40, approximately from when she left the McDonald's on Route 17, approximately three hours" to get to the bridge pulloff, he said, "where it should have taken her an hour and a half."

"We're missing an hour and a half from her life and the life of those kids," he said.

Ruskin's statements come amid revelations that Diane Schuler drank and got high before the wreck and that a child protection agency is investigating. Schuler held a tearful news conference last week with Barbara, saying he never saw his wife drunk. Barbara said Diane Schuler suffered from medical conditions that contributed to the crash.

At least one camper at the campground has withdrawn a donation to a fund benefiting the family, the campground said. Bryan Schuler was the wreck's sole survivor and is recovering at a hospital.

Campground owner Ann Scott said she's angry at Schuler for drinking, getting high and driving children - and said officials are right to try to find out what, if anything, Daniel Schuler knew about his wife's substance use. "If that's what child services has to do, then that's what they have to do for the protection of the child," Scott said.

State Police have said they found a broken vodka bottle in the wreckage. Ruskin said Saturday that Schuler said he did not put vodka in the car and didn't see a bottle when he packed it, but acknowledged the Schulers often kept vodka in the car to bring to the campground.

Schuler said he had no knowledge of his wife bringing pot to the campground, Ruskin said.

Camper Joanne Donato, of West Islip, said the Schulers seemed caring. Still, Donato and camper Celeste Ross, of South Ozone Park, Queens, said if it's shown that Schuler knew his wife was going to be drinking, drugging and driving, his son should be taken from him.

Depending on the investigation, "the kid should be given to the grandparents or another relative because obviously, he's not responsible," Ross said.

Added Donato: "That poor little boy is the one who's going to suffer the most out of everyone."

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