NEW YORK (WPIX)—A mother who drove head-on into traffic on the Taconic State Parkway sparking a horrific accident that killed eight people, had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in her system at the time of the crash, a toxicology report revealed Tuesday.
According to Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, Diane Schuler not only had a blood alcohol level of .19 but an autopsy also discovered elevated levels of THC - the main substance found in marijuana - in her system.
Schuler's blood alcohol level is the equivalent of 10 drinks of 80 proof alcohol. The legal limit in New York State is .08. Investigators said she also had six ounces of undigested alcohol in her stomach and found a broken 1.75-liter bottle of Absolut Vodka underneath her minivan seat.
According to blood tests, Schuler's THC levels indicated that she had smoke marijuana about 15 minutes to an hour before the fatal crash.
"She would have had difficulty with perception, with her judgment, with her memory," said Betsy Spratt, chief toxicologist for Westchester County's medical examiner. "Around that level of alcohol, you start to get what we call tunnel vision."
"My office, along with the New York State Police, will continue to investigate the facts and circumstances that led up to the collision causing the deaths, so that the public and the families of the victims can understand what lead to this horrific crash," DiFiore said in a statement to PIX News.
The shocking findings were released a day after authorities said that witnesses recall seeing Schuler's minivan making aggressive and erratic moves long before the fatal July 26 crash.
Schuler, who was headed home to West Babylon from a camping trip upstate, drove the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway and slammed into an SUV in Briarcliff Manor. The three people traveling in that vehicle - Guy Bastardi, 49, his father, Michael Bastardi, 81, and Daniel Longo, 74, all of Yonkers - also died, police said.
Schuler's passengers included her 2-year-old daughter, Erin, 5-year-old son, Bryan and her three nieces, Emma Hance, 8, Alyson Hance, 7, and Kate Hance, 5. Tragically, all of the passengers perished in the crash, for the exception of Bryan, who remains in the hospital with serious injuries he sustained in the crash.
Authorities later recovered a cell phone belonging to Schuler, which was reportedly dumped near the Tappan Zee Bridge. It appears she tossed the phone at a road side pull-off minutes before driving the wrong way on the parkway, police said.
Two hours prior to the crash, Schuler reportedly called her brother, complaining she wasn't feeling well. He suggested she pull over and even alerted police, but she decided to continue driving.
The Bastardi family called their relatives' tragic deaths "murder" and said they have hired a lawyer. They are expected to meet with DiFiore Wednesday.