Diane Schuler crashed her brother’s red Ford minivan killing herself and seven others about four hours after leaving an upstate New York campground where she spent the weekend with her husband, two children and three nieces, according to WABC-TV, New York City.
Families continue their summer vacations at Hunter Lake Campground in Parksville, but it is certainly with a sense of sadness and extreme shock over the latest revelations about 36-year-old Diane Schuler. “I think it turned all of our lives upside down here. All of us. I literally dropped the phone, when I got the call,” campground director Ann Scott said.
The news that Diane Schuler was drunk and high on marijuana when she left this campground, and drove the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway is something these campers find hard to believe. The rules about drinking are strict. Campers who drink outside their campsites are to be evicted.
“I don’t ever remember seeing her with a drink. I don’t ever remember smelling alcohol on her,” Scott said.
Maybe not, but today Eyewitness News heard from a viewer who spent at least 10 years as a seasonal camper here. He claims he noticed lots of drinking at least in years past. The viewer did not want the TV station to use his name.
“It was not for me, that’s for sure. How people could do that pretty much every weekend still amazes me,” he said.
“The guide rule is if you abuse it, you lose it and you’re out of here. I’m gonna tell you, we did have a group of drinkers at one time and I evicted all five of them,” Scott said.
The campground director insisted they never saw this coming, as authorities try to find out if anyone did see something at a McDonald’s in Liberty where Schuler stopped prior to the crash. Investigators want a glimpse of the surveillance video.
The station’s news crew also tried to talk to the manager, but he declined to comment.
Back at the campground, support continues for the Schuler family. They’re even having a fundraiser for the next couple of weeks, but also, hoping, somehow, to put this horrible tragedy behind them.
Meanwhile, Schuler’s husband said today she didn’t have a drinking problem and suggested diabetes and other health problems were to blame, according to Associated Press.
“She was not a drinker. She was not an alcoholic,” Daniel Schuler said at a tearful news conference with his sister and lawyer. “Something medically had to have happened.”
Schuler’s attorney, Dominic Barbara, said the 36-year-old Cablevision executive had previously had gestational diabetes, had a suspicious bump on her leg and had an untreated mouth abscess before the deadly July 26 wreck.
“I think she had a stroke of some sort,” Barbara said. “From the stroke came all the other issues.”
Police say Schuler downed more than 10 vodkas and smoked marijuana before driving her minivan nearly two miles on the Taconic State Parkway and slamming head-on into a sport-utility vehicle. Her 2-year-old daughter and three nieces were killed with her, along with three men in the SUV. Schuler’s 5-year-old son survived.
Her blood-alcohol level was more than twice the state’s legal limit, and she had smoked pot as soon as 15 minutes before the crash, according to toxicology reports from the Westchester County medical examiner’s office.
Daniel Schuler said that he never saw his wife drunk since he met her, and that the couple went through a normal routine on the Sunday before he last saw her at a campsite in upstate New York.
“She was fine,” he said. “We had a cup of coffee in the morning, we packed the cars up like we always do and we headed out.”
Schuler had gestational diabetes, Barbara said. The condition usually begins during pregnancy and goes away after childbirth, experts say.
Daniel Schuler went fishing for the day, while Diane Schuler began a 140-mile trip home to Long Island with her kids and three nieces, ages 5 to 8. The fiery wreck happened about four hours after she left, and after motorists called 911 to report her erratic driving on several roads.
Barbara said a frequent babysitter for the West Babylon couple never saw Schuler drink or smoke pot. Her sister-in-law also defended her.
“Family was the most important thing to her,” said Joy Schuler, Daniel’s sister. “There was no way she would ever jeopardize the children.”
The family has not decided whether to seek another autopsy for Schuler and is awaiting more information from the county’s autopsy report, Barbara said.