CUTCHOGUE, N.Y. —As a memorial swells in size at the Depot Lane turnaround along Route 48 in Cutchogue, so does the investigation into the crash that killed four women in their twenties and severely injured four of their friends. All of the women were inside of a limo that was struck just yards from the vineyard they had exited moments earlier. The driver of the truck, Steven Romeo, slammed into the limo as it was attempting a U-turn. According to Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, the limo driver does not recall the truck barreling down Route 48, “The limo driver has told us that he did not see any vehicle heading in the west bound lanes.”
The 55-year-old Romeo who had a bedside arraignment on Sunday at Eastern Long Island Hospital for driving while intoxicated stayed at the scene for fifteen minutes according to Spota, before suddenly disappearing amidst the chaos, “He was seen walking away from the scene heading in an eastbound direction. He got approximately 1,000 feet and then he climbed over a fence, about a six-foot black fence to a transfer station on the north side of the westbound lanes.”
A police officer was alerted and caught up with Romeo as he walked down a steep embankment, “He did stop at a certain point and the police officer walked him back to the scene where field sobriety test were administered.”
Law enforcement officials are now awaiting for chemical and blood tests to identify the amount of alcohol allegedly in his system. However, Spota said that Romeo did provide some insight to investigators,”We do know from him that he had consumed alcohol prior to the accident, he has told us that.”
As for what kind? “Beer,” said Spota without hesitation.
While Romeo continued to recover from his minor injuries at ELIH, officials noted that this was his first arrest for DUI.
Meanwhile, there was no evidence of drug or alcohol intoxication against the limo driver according to officials. As to whether or not he had valid credentials to operate the vehicle? The DA had to do a double-take with one of his investigators after PIX 11 News asked the question, before responding, “Yes.”
As law enforcement continues to investigate the intersection that does not have any posted “No U-turn” signs, they admit that the summer months tend to be quite busy when it comes to writing summons for vehicles failing to yield, “They have warned people, they have warned limo drivers, they have warned people at Vineyard 48 that this is a serious matter, they have absolutely been enforcing the vehicle traffic laws as best as they can,” said Spota.
At the start of the news conference, Spota did take the time to remind everyone that the girls displayed great responsibility to tour the vineyards by hiring a limo company to ferry them around the area.