Steven Romeo’s blood alcohol level at the time of the crash was .66%, officials say.
Cutchogue, NY - April 26, 2017 - The pickup driver who struck the stretch limousine making a U-turn at a Cutchogue intersection in July of 2015 pleaded guilty at a court conference this morning in Central Islip to a charge of driving while impaired by alcohol, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.
Steven Romeo’s blood alcohol level at the time of the crash was .66%. State law defines Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI/Alcohol) as having a blood alcohol level of more than .05% Blood Alcohol Content but less than .07 % BAC. For his plea, Romeo will pay a $500 fine and court fees and his license is now suspended for 90 days. The defendant also received a conditional discharge mandating he avoid arrest for the next six months or his sentence will be revisited by the court.
On July 18, 2015, Lauren Baruch, Stephanie Belli, Amy Grabina, and Brittney Schulman were killed and Alicia Arundel, Melissa Crai, Joelle DiMonte, and Olga Lipets were seriously injured when the limousine they were riding in was struck by Romeo at the intersection of County Road 48 and Depot Lane in Cutchogue.
District Attorney Spota said, “The painstaking reconstruction of this collision by the New York State Police established the fact that the pickup truck driver, Steven Romeo, could not have avoided this crash. The evidence established the fact that Romeo did not see the limousine enter the intersection until he was approximately 200 feet away, effectively making a collision unavoidable.’
“By law, there must be a link between Romeo’s impairment and the cause of the crash for any other charges to be filed against Romeo,” Spota said.
The district attorney’s office has filed its appeal of the dismissal last year of the indictment of the limousine driver, Carlos Pino, 60, of Old Bethpage.
The grand jury found that Pino’s heedlessly executed U-turn was serious enough to result in criminal charges, notably criminally negligent homicide and failure to yield the right of way.
“The deaths of these four women, and the serious injuries suffered by four others, were entirely preventable, and, as the grand jury found, this devastation was caused by driver failure, improper limousine construction, and inadequate regulatory oversight,” DA Spota said.
After 12 months of hearing testimony from 47 witnesses and reviewing thousands of pages of exhibits, the grand jury issued a report in December of last year regarding safety issues raised by the crash.
Among its findings: an additional left turn arrow signal should be installed at the intersection of County Route 48 and Depot Lane where the fatal crash occurred, that legislation must be passed in Albany to make U-Turns by stretch limousines and large commercial vehicles illegal, and that limousine drivers in the state should be at least 25 years of age before being allowed to obtain a Class E license to work as a limousine driver.
In addition to indicting individuals for criminal offenses, a Grand Jury is empowered by New York State law to issue legislative, executive, and administrative recommendations. A full copy of the Grand Jury Report is available online through the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office website HERE.