Just days after placing evergreen blankets and Christmas poinsettias on the graves of two men killed in last summer's wrong-way crash on the Taconic State Parkway, the victims' family Thursday sued the estate of the Long Island woman blamed for the deadly accident.
"I'm going to have to learn how to live with it," said Roseann Guzzo of Yorktown, whose brother, Guy Bastardi, 49, and father, Michael Bastardi, Sr., 81, both from Yonkers, died in the crash that took a total of eight lives. "It's a piercing loss for my family."
Guzzo, along with her brother, Michael Bastardi Jr. of Warwick and her sister, Margaret Nicotina of Yonkers, stood outside a White Plains courthouse Thursday where their lawyers had just filed the State Supreme Court lawsuit seeking unspecified monetary damages. Guzzo is administrator of her brother's estate and co-administrator of her father's estate.
Nicotina said she misses her father constantly. "He lived next door," Nicotina said. "I would watch 'Days of Our Lives' and he would watch it with me."
On Saturday, the family paid a Christmas visit to the graves of their father, brother and Daniel Longo, 74, of Yonkers, a family friend who also died in the July 26 crash. All three are buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale.
The lawsuit names the estate of Diane Schuler, 36, of West Babylon, as a defendant. Schuler, also killed in the crash, was drunk and high on marijuana when she slammed into the sport utility vehicle carrying the Bastardis and Longo. She had driven 1.7 miles south in a northbound lane of the Taconic in a minivan with five children on the way home from an upstate camping trip. Her son was the only survivor in the minivan.
Schuler's husband, Daniel, declined to be named administrator of her estate so the defendant in the lawsuit is the Office of the Suffolk County Public Administrator - the court-appointed administrator. Schuler's brother, Warren Hance, of Floral Park, is also named as a defendant because she was driving his minivan. Hance was not a passenger, but a lawyer for the Bastardis said that his ownership of the minivan makes him liable.
Brian Sichol, an attorney for the Bastardis, said he wants to ask Schuler when his wife drank and how much. State police found Schuler had a 0.19 blood-alcohol concentration and high levels of marijuana when she crashed, but her family has disputed that.
Irving Anolik, another attorney for the Bastardis, said, "I believe the ingredients of the disaster were in the car when she left Sullivan County."
Garden City attorney Dominic Barbara, who represents Schuler, said, "These people had great tragedy in their lives and are looking to have monetary damages from the accident. Mr. Schuler, who suffered the loss of his wife, his daughter and his three nieces, feels as much pain as the other families. . . . He has a great deal of sympathy for their losses in this matter."
Guzzo said the lawsuit is about seeking justice and not about money.
Longo's family has retained a Yonkers law firm. Michael Archer, a forensic scientist hired to work on the case for the firm, said the Longos plan to sue, but he would not say when or whom the defendants might be.