Monday marks the one-year anniversary of the horrific limousine crash in Cutchogue that killed four young women and dramatically altered the lives of six other individuals and their families.
One year later, the tragedy is still very much on the minds of people who live or work on the North Fork.
The aftermath of what transpired that Saturday evening at the intersection of Route 48 and Depot Lane is still unraveling. Criminal cases are ongoing against each of the drivers and civil cases have been brought by the victims’ families and several survivors. An additional suit has even been filed by the police officer who made an arrest that Saturday. In it, he alleges he was fired in part due to political fallout spurred by the crash.
Most of what has been written and discussed about the crash has centered around who was at fault and what is, or is not, being done to improve that particular intersection. For the people involved, and even local residents, emotions are still raw. Those who defend Steven Romeo, the local man who was charged with driving while intoxicated the day of the crash, are concerned that charges haven’t been dropped against him since his blood alcohol level was below the legal limit when he was tested more than an hour after the crash. They have also wondered aloud why it took so long for a grand jury to indict Carlos Pino, the limousine driver who was ultimately held criminally responsible for the crash after making an ill-advised U-turn.
People who drive past the intersection nearly every day have also expressed repeated fears that a traffic light installed last year doesn’t feature a left-turn signal, doing nothing to correct the safety hazard that led to the crash.
But as we approach the one-year mark, we’re choosing to use this space to remember what made the crash a tragedy in the first place: the deaths of four young women who all had bright futures ahead of them.
No conviction, judgment or settlement will ever bring them back. And while an enhanced intersection might help save lives in the future, it could never fill the void felt by the families and friends of Lauren Baruch, Stephanie Belli, Amy Grabina and Brittney Schulman.
Little has been reported on these four young women, as their families have understandably sought privacy in the aftermath of the crash. The geographical distance between their hometowns in western Suffolk County and the North Fork has also perhaps numbed the impact of their deaths for local residents who didn’t know them.
One year later, however, their names are worth remembering — and they always will be. This crash produced many victims, but four of them will never take another breath.
Photo: From left, Amy Grabina, Lauren Baruch, Stephanie Belli (top) and Brittney Schulman. (Credit: Facebook)