Wrong Way Tragedy: First Responders Look Back

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Jonathan D'Addesio and Kelli Conley were first responders at the Taconic State Parkway accident two years ago
Jonathan D'Addesio and Kelli Conley were first responders at the Taconic State Parkway accident two years ago Photo Credit: Robert Michelin
D'Addesio was just 16 at the time of the accident
D'Addesio was just 16 at the time of the accident Photo Credit: Robert Michelin

This is the second in a five-part series called Wrong Way Tragedy, about the lasting impacts of the fatal drunken driving accident that claimed eight lives on the Taconic State Parkway on July 26, 2009.  See Part 1 here. Check back Wednesday for more.

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. – For Thornwood resident Jonathan D'Addesio, the wrong way Taconic State Parkway accident that took eight lives two years ago will be one he remembers forever.

"It was a tough accident, there was a lot going on and we just did our best," D'Addesio said.

D'Addesio, who was just 16 at the time of the accident, had only been a member of the Pleasantville Volunteer Ambulance Corps for a short time before the accident took place. He, along with other members of the ambulance corps, was a first responder at the scene of the accident, which occured two years ago today.

Kelli Conley, captain of the ambulance corps, said she is proud of the work her crew did that tragic day.

"There's probably a lot of people out there that couldn't handle a tragic accident and call like that," Conley said. But the corps members act like family and support one another.

It all began when Diane Schuler took off down the wrong way of the parkway in a van filled with her two children (Erin, 2, and Bryan, 5) and three nieces (Emma Hance, 8,  Alyson Hance, 7, and Katie Hance, 5). Schuler's vehicle sped down the parkway for 1.7 miles before crashing head-on into a car driven by Guy Bastardi, 49 of Yonkers. Bastardi's car was also carrying his father Michael Bastardi, 81, and friend Daniel Longo, 74, also both of Yonkers.

The lone survivor was Bryan Schuler. At first there was speculation that a medical problem had led to the accident, but after several days toxicology results revealed that Schuler had been driving drunk with a blood-alcohol content level of 0.19, double the legal limit. She was also found to be under the influence of marijuana at the time.

The accident is often referred to as the worst in Westchester County in over 75 years, yet D'Addesio believes that his crew turned the tragedy into a positive years later.

"Afterwards it was tough getting through it but we all kind of stuck together and it kind of grew us all together closer," D'Addesio said. "Now we're like a big family."

Are you haunted by the Diane Schuler drunken driving accident? Tell us about it in comments below or on Facebook.

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