DA: Pickup truck driver admitted to drinking before Cutchogue limo crash
The pickup truck driver who crashed into a limousine in Cutchogue Saturday has admitted to investigators that he was drinking before the crash that killed four women, according to prosecutors.
District Attorney Thomas Spota said at a news conference Monday afternoon that Steven Romeo, 55, told detectives he had "consumed some beers" at his home before the crash.
As News 12 has reported, Romeo's red pickup truck smashed into a limousine as it made a U-turn on County Road 48 at Depot Lane. The crash killed Brittney Schulman, 23, of Smithtown; Lauren Baruch, 24, of Smithtown; Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park; and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack.
Four other women in the limousine suffered serious injuries. Three of the survivors remain hospitalized.
Spota said that the eight women were picked up by the limousine Saturday afternoon at Baruch's home. They first visited LIV Vodka Distillery in Baiting Hollow before heading to the popular winery Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue. At around 5:15 p.m., the limousine picked up the women to head back to Smithtown.
Spota said the limousine was attempting to make a U-turn to head west on Route 48 when Romeo's pickup truck slammed into it. The limo driver told police at the scene that he did not see Romeo's truck. However, a witness who was headed east and saw the entire crash told police that he did see Romeo's truck, and said that the limo appeared to turn "right in front of the truck."
The Southold chief of police said U-turns are legal at the intersection, but officers have issued summonses and warned other limo drivers about attempting to make dangerous turns at the site of the crash. Spota noted that the limo driver consented to a blood test and had not consumed any alcohol.
After the crash, Spota said that Romeo remained at the scene for approximately 15 minutes, and then he walked away. He climbed over a 6-foot fence and was walking down a steep embankment when an officer who was alerted to his alleged attempt to flee caught up to Romeo. Romeo was taken back to the scene and was given a field sobriety test that indicated he was intoxicated, according to Spota.
Investigators are still awaiting the results of Romeo's blood test to determine the exact level of his alleged intoxication.
Romeo was taken to Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport to be treated for minor injuries that include a broken nose. He was arraigned on a charge of driving while intoxicated at his bedside and is under the custody of the sheriff. He was ordered held on $500,000 cash bail or $1,000,000 bond.
Prosecutors have said that Romeo's charges will likely be upgraded.
Spota said that the investigation remains highly active. Detectives are awaiting accident reconstruction results and are still speaking to eyewitnesses.
The four surviving young women have not yet been interviewed as they continue to recover, Spota said.