Final report on NY crash that killed 8 finds drunken driver going 85 mph in wrong direction

The woman blamed for a wrong-way crash that killed eight people on a New York highway last summer was going 85 mph when she slammed into an SUV, state police said Tuesday.

The SUV also was speeding, at 74 mph, they said. The speed limit was 55 mph.

The July 26 crash on the Taconic Parkway in Westchester County, north of New York City, killed Diane Schuler, who was driving the van, her daughter, three nieces and three men in the other vehicle. Schuler's 5-year-old son survived.

The crash — and how Schuler could race against highway traffic with a vanload of frightened children — intrigued the nation and was featured on TV talk shows for months.

An autopsy found that Schuler, 36, of West Babylon, was drunk and high on marijuana. Because she died, no criminal charges were filed.

Her husband, Daniel Schuler, refused to accept the autopsy conclusion and funded more studies of her remains in hopes of proving she was not intoxicated. The results have not been made public. A call to his attorney, Dominic Barbara, was not immediately returned.

The families of two of the men in the other vehicle — Michael Bastardi, 81, and his son Guy Bastardi, 49 — have filed a civil suit against Schuler's estate. Their lawyers did not immediately return phone messages. Relatives of the third man — Daniel Longo, 74 — have not sued.

The finding that the Bastardis' SUV also was speeding could mean that Longo's family has a claim against Guy Bastardi's estate as well as Schuler's estate. But Michael Archer, accident reconstructionist for Longo's attorneys, said Tuesday that no decision on suing has been made.

Michael Bastardi Jr., son of Michael Bastardi and brother of Guy Bastardi, said: "There has never been any mention made of neglect on my brother's part. It would be ridiculous to claim he contributed to this tragedy."

Bastardi also said he is still waiting to hear an explanation for how Diane Schuler became so drunk.

Archer said he had been told in meetings with state police that Schuler did not steer away from the oncoming SUV or brake before the impact.

"The one thing this report shows is speed kills," he said.