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limo crash

Lawyers reveal new details on Case

Families of several young women who died in a limo crash in Cuthogue in 2015 gathered in Smithtown for the five-year anniversary of the crash. Photo by David Luces

For the families of the four women who tragically died in a 2015 limousine crash on County Route 48 in Cutchogue, the grief and pain from that fateful day has never gone away.

Families of several young women who died in a limo crash in Cuthogue in 2015 gathered at the five-year anniversary of the crash. Photo by David Luces

The families of Amy Grabina, Lauren Baruch, Stephanie Belli, and Brittney Schulman gathered by a Smithtown street July 16 that was named in honor of their daughters next to Smithtown High School West. The group tied purple ribbons around the street sign and were also joined by the parents of four women who were injured and survived the crash.

“Due to the irresponsibility of some and negligence of others, those four women did not return, while four passengers returned physically and mentally scarred,” said Steven Baruch, father of victim Lauren Baruch. “It is five years after the fact and we are still tortured by many unanswered questions … that the picture of what actually happened remains unclear.”

At a press conference after the ceremony, Robert Sullivan, a lawyer for the Baruch family, revealed new information on the case. The lawyer showed an email from a Southold resident that was sent to town officials three years before the fatal crash. The resident in the email warned about the potential for an accident to occur on the intersection that killed the four women.

In addition, the attorney showed a newly surfaced ambulance report shows that there was a front-seat passenger in Steven Romeo’s pickup truck when it crashed into the limousine. The report says she refused medical care at the scene.

“It states on the report that she was the front seat passenger in the red pickup truck, so she saw the whole thing, ” Sullivan said. “That information was never given to us for three years. It was never turned over to the families or lawyers. Why is that? It is all part of a cover-up.”

Lawyers for the families have tried to interview the women, but have been unsuccessful as she has been uncooperative, according to the attorney.

“We have tried to depose this lady to find out what she saw, its [been] five years,” Russell said.
The Baruch and Grabina families are suing the Town of Southold and Suffolk County, claiming that they were negligent in failing to make the intersection safe before the accident.

Families of several young women who died in a limo crash in Cuthogue in 2015 gathered at the five-year anniversary of the crash. Photo by David Luces

The limo carrying the eight women, who were out celebrating an upcoming wedding, attempted to make a U-turn on Sound Avenue when it was struck by Romeo’s vehicle. The limo driver, Carlos Pino, was indicted on criminally negligent homicide charges, though the charges were thrown out by the State Supreme Court in 2016. Romeo pleaded guilty in 2017 to driving while impaired and was sentenced to a 90-day license suspension and fined $500.

Family members said they were denied justice.

Following the 2015 East End crash and a 2018 accident in upstate Schoharie County, New York passed legislation aimed at the limousine industry. The bill, signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) in January, requires passenger seat belts, drug and alcohol testing for drivers and increased penalties for illegal U-turns and includes a website where complaints can be made.

The families also called for the Safe Limo Act to be brought to President Donald Trump’s (R) desk and signed into federal law. The bill would set new federal limousine safety rules and standards for seat belts, seat integrity and fund crash safety research, among other things.

They said they are hoping something good can come from something tragic.

“The Safe Limo Act will ensure that the industry will follow the same protocols throughout the entire country,” said Nancy DiMonte, a mother of one of the crash survivors. “We have worked tirelessly to help New York become the forefront of advanced limousine safety measures and we are now prepared to institute these bills nationwide.”

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Running 4 Our Angels scheduled for April 8, town to rename road outside Smithtown High School West

Smithtown area friends Lauren Baruch, Stephanie Belli, Amy Grabina and Brittney Schulman died in a limousine crash, July 18, 2015. Photos from Facebook

Nearly three years after a tragic limousine crash killed four Smithtown women, their families are coming together to host a memorial 5K run in their honor.

The first Running 4 Our Angels 5K run/walk is scheduled to be held Sunday April 8 at 9 a.m. outside Smithtown High School West to remember the lives of Lauren Baruch, Stephanie Belli, Amy Grabina and Brittney Schulman.

“I wanted to do something for all four of the girls, I felt compelled to do something,” said Felicia Baruch, Lauren’s mother.

On July 18, 2015, the four young women were part of a group that rented a limousine for a bachelorette party to go wine tasting at North Fork vineyards. The outing took a tragic turn when Steven Romeo, 57, of Peconic, was driving his red pickup truck and collided with the limousine as it attempted to make a U-turn near the intersection of Depot Lane and County Route 48 in Cutchogue. Baruch and Schulman, of Smithtown, as well as Belli, of Kings Park, and Grabina, of Commack, died in the crash that also injured six others.

The limo driver, Carlos Pino, 60, of Old Bethpage, was arrested and arraigned on four charges of criminally negligent homicide, four counts of assault, failure to yield the right of way, reckless driving and other traffic violations. The charges were dismissed against Pino in October 2017, but the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office has a pending appeal to reinstate the charges against Pino.

Romeo pled guilty to driving while impaired, a traffic infraction, and received a 90-day license suspension in April 2017.

In the years following the tragedy, each of the women’s families have created nonprofit organizations or scholarship funds to honor their daughters’ memories: The Lawzie Marigold Foundation, founded in honor of
Lauren Baruch; the Stephanie Belli Whisperette Scholarship; The Amy Rose Grabina Foundation; and a scholarship given out by the Schulman family.

The Running 4 Our Angels 5K run/walk will be their first joint fundraiser, according to Baruch. All proceeds will be split equally among the four charitable organizations.

“The purpose of the 5K Run/Walk is to increase awareness in our community regarding the safety issues of limousines,” reads the event’s website. “Our top priority is to have more prudent regulations on the internal and external structure of limousines, as well as mandated comprehensive training programs. Currently, there are no formal training programs for limousine drivers.”

Online registration for the event costs $30 through April 7 at 11:59 p.m. through the website www.runsignup.com/Race/NY/Smithtown/LawzieMarigold5K. The run is certified and sanctioned by USA Track & Field with mile markers and water stations.

Bib pickup and day-of registrations will be held at Smithtown High School West, located at 100 Central Road, from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m.

Awards will be presented to the top three overall male and female finishers, as well as the top three male and female finishers in 16 different age groups.

Following the run, Town of Smithtown officials will host an honorary ceremony renaming a road outside High School West, at approximately 11:15 a.m., according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo.