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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Drunk, Stoned Woman Blamed for Deaths|Of Eight People on the Taconic Parkway

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CN) - The family of a father and son who died in a gruesome car accident that killed eight people, including four children, says the driver responsible for the wreck was drunk and stoned. Diane Schuler, a 36-year-old Long Island mother, drove nearly 2 miles in the wrong direction on the Taconic State Parkway on July 26 before crashing head-on into another car, killing everyone in both cars except Schuler's 5-year-old son.

Schuler died in the accident along with her 2-year-old daughter and three nieces, ages 5, 7 and 9. Guy Bastardi, 49, was driving the other car, accompanied by his father, Michael, 81, and their friend, Daniel Longo, 74.

Plaintiff Roseann Guzzo, executrix for the Bastardis, says her brother and father suffered "pre-impact terror" before they died. At a press conference, Guzzo said "this case has more inconsistencies than we can comprehend."

She claims Schuler "was deeply intoxicated and significantly impaired by her use of marijuana."

Toxicology reports indicate that Schuler had 10 shots of liquor in her bloodstream, and a shattered vodka bottle was reportedly found in the wreckage. Schuler was driving the family to her home on Long Island after a weekend camping trip.

Schuler's brother, Warren Hance, whose three young daughters all died in the crash, is named as a defendant.

Guzzo's co-executor of Michael Bastardi Sr.'s estate, Irving Anolik, explained why at a press conference: "We are required by law to sue Warren Hance as well as the estate of Diane Schuler," Anolik said. "We are not suing Warren Hance, who has suffered a terrible tragedy, three children killed, because of the fact that we wanted to sue him. We have to sue him under the principles of law. So it's not a situation where we are trying to cause any additional grief. You have to bear in mind that the car in which the deceased driver was driving belonged to Warren Hance. We are also concerned by the fact that this woman had access to a huge amount of vodka, a huge amount of marijuana, and I believe that the ingredients of the disaster were in the car when she left Sullivan County. It had to be in the car, and we don't know who put it there."

Guzzo said at the press conference that the family is filing the suit in part because there were no criminal charges filed in connection to the accident. Prosecutors said at the time that the charges died with Schuler.

"We were denied a grand jury to get the answers we seek, so we will get them through civil litigation," Guzzo said. "That's our only hope."

Guzzo sued the Office of the Suffolk County Public Administrator, as court-appointed administrator of Schuler's estate, and Hance.

The lawsuit does not specify damages, mentioning only pecuniary loss and funeral costs.

She is represented by Bryan Sichol with Sichol & Hicks of Suffern, N.Y.

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