Miracle Taconic Survivor in "Good Spirits": Investigator

Boy recovering after suffering broken bones and severe head trauma

By Jennifer Millman
|  Thursday, Oct 15, 2009  |  Updated 8:15 AM EDT
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Another Wrong Way Taconic Driver

Diane Schuler was drunk and had high levels of marijuana in her system on the day she drove the wrong way on the Taconic and caused an accident that killed eight people, according to published reports.

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Outrage From Taconic Victims' Family

The family of Guy and Michael Bastardi say the actions of driver Diane Schuler were, "incomprehensible." Toxicology results was both high on marijuana and drunk when she got behind the wheel of her minivan.
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The 5-year-old lone survivor of a horrific highway crash that killed eight people is already back to playing ball with his father after spending two months in hospitals recovering from severe head injuries and broken bones, according to a published report.

Bryan Schuler's mother, Diane, drove nearly two miles in the wrong direction on the Taconic State Parkway north of the city in July. The Long Island mother died along with Bryan's sister, three cousins, and three Yonkers men in the vehicle she hit.

But despite the pain and isolation that no doubt overwhelmed the boy after five of the most important people in his life disappeared forever, he's surviving – and thriving.

"He's in very good spirits, he loves going outside," Thomas Ruskin, the private investigator hired by the Schuler family, told The New York Post. "He loves playing ball with his dad."

Aside from the black eye patch over his left eye, which Bryan wears as he recovers from head injuries, you wouldn't know the trauma the boy suffered just by looking at him. 

Just yesterday, Bryan and his father, Daniel Schuler, strolled across the street from their Long Island home to test out a new kickboxing game known as Arcade Alley, reports the Post. The boy was grinning and eager to try the game, which enables players to kick and punch multiple red points on an inflatable target.

Bryan is likely too young to understand what exactly happened on the fateful day his mother caused a crash that would change his family forever, but that may be a good thing. 
    
The medical examiner found that Diane Schuler, 36, had a blood alcohol level of 0.19 -- more than twice the legal limit -- and had smoked pot less than an hour before she plowed head-on into an SUV.

Bryan, the lone survivor of the crash, spent months in hospitals being treated for a broken leg, two broken arms and severe head injuries. The boy wears the patch over his eye for a few hours each day to rest it as part of his treatment regimen for the head trauma and is still undergoing physical and occupational therapy for his injuries, said Ruskin, whose company is investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash.

"He's a very active 5-year-old," Ruskin told the Post.

Fortunately for Bryan, who is being home-schooled for now, his father has been able to take extended leave and stay home with his son. Co-workers at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration, where Daniel Schuler works, have donated vacation time so that Daniel Schuler will be able to care for Bryan into November.

Ruskin told the Post that Bryan "misses his mother and sister terribly" and that the boy's father continues to be troubled not just by the loss of his family but by the deaths of the three Yonkers men who were in the vehicle his wife, Diane, struck on July 26.  

"He thinks about it every day," Ruskin told the paper.

Although Daniel Schuler spends most of his time helping his son heal, he's also working hard to absolve his wife of allegations she was drunk and high at the time of the crash.

Schuler's family has steadfastly disputed the toxicology findings and has spoken about having her body exhumed to prove that some physical illness, not alcohol or marijuana, was to blame for Schuler's erratic behavior. They are having a lab re-test Diane's tissue samples, and hope the new tests will reveal new details that disprove the coroner's findings. The family still believes a tooth abscess may have affected her brain and that something was overlooked in the initial autopsy, Ruskin told the Post.

"She is not an alcoholic and my heart is restless every night when I go to bed," Daniel Schuler told NBC last week. "Something medically had to have happened."

The family of Guy and Michael Bastardi, who were killed in the SUV, has expressed plans to file a civil lawsuit against the Schulers. Meanwhile, Daniel Schuler has other things to worry about.

"I promised my wife I will take care of my son the way she wanted me to," he said last week, reports the Post. "That's what I'm going to do."

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