Candlelight vigil held in Smithtown to remember limo crash victims
Four pink-and-white bouquets, held together with bows and sashes displaying the names of four friends, adorned the stage at Smithtown High School West’s football field last Wednesday night.
Between the bouquets were poster-sized images of the young women who were killed July 19 in a limousine crash in Cutchogue: Brittney Schulman, 23, of Smithtown; Lauren Baruch, 24, of Smithtown; Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park; and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack.
As friends and family gathered for the candlelight vigil, many shared poems, prayers and songs of hope.
Then four white balloons were released, one at a time, in memory of the victims.
During the ceremony, a friend read a statement on behalf of Ms. Grabina’s family that described her as a loving person who acted as a role model for youth.
“We loved her more than words can express,” the statement read. “As her parents, our lives will never be the same.”
Ms. Belli’s family thanked the people who attended the vigil and said Stephanie will always remain in their hearts.
“I want to express from her that she thanks you,” one woman told the crowd. “She loves you and is hugging each one of you at this very moment.
A family member of Ms. Baruch said she’ll never be forgotten.
“She was truly a special person that touched the lives of many,” he said. “When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.”
Smithtown parent Liz Scarpa-Lauro addressed the crowd at the start of the ceremony, saying she helped organize the event in order to honor the victims.
“We came together as a community to support the families — to show them we’re here for you,” she said.
Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley, who attended Wednesday’s vigil, described it as moving.
“We were just as deeply touched as everybody,” he said. “We just wanted to show our condolences and let them know that we care.”
Peconic resident Steven Romeo, 55, was driving a pickup truck westbound on Route 48 when he struck the limousine as the driver was making a U-turn at the Depot Lane intersection. Four additional limo passengers were hospitalized following the crash, as were the two drivers. The eight friends had hired the limousine to take them wine and vodka tasting on the North Fork, prosecutors said.
Mr. Romeo, who District Attorney Thomas Spota has said had a blood alcohol content below the legal limit when he submitted to a blood test nearly two hours after the crash, has been charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. He is due back in court Sept. 18.
Caption: Friends and family of the victims in last week’s fatal limousine crash gather at Smithtown West High School Wednesday. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled one of the crash victims’ names.