Funeral services held for Cutchogue limo crash victim Amy Grabina

CUTCHOGUE (WABC) -- Friends and family gathered Tuesday to bid a final goodbye to one of the women killed in a wreck over the weekend involving a limousine and a truck on Long Island.

Services for 23-year-old Amy Grabina, of Commack, began at noon Tuesday at Guttermans Memorial Chapel at 8000 Jericho Turnpike in Woodbury.

The first of hundreds of mourners arrived more than 90 minutes before the service, the first of four funerals to be held for victims of the crash, which also left four other women injured.

Mourners stepped into the searing heat with tears in their eyes, the pain unbearable and the loss incomprehensible. Grabina was described as outgoing and upbeat, adored by her friends and proud of her new job at a prestigious Manhattan accounting firm.

The driver of the pickup truck, 55-year-old Steven Romeo, was charged with DWI, and authorities are weighing whether to upgrade the charges.

The driver of the limo has told investigators that he didn't see the truck when he tried to make a U-turn on County Road 48, but prosecutors said Monday that an eyewitness saw the limo turn directly into the path of the oncoming pickup.



"This is a very, very ongoing investigation," Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said two days after the accident on the four-lane highway on the North Fork, which is dotted with vineyards and wineries about 75 to 100 miles east of New York City.

Grabina was with a group of women in the limo returning from a winery in Cutchogue on Saturday afternoon, after reportedly celebrating a birthday. They had hired the limousine for their wine-tasting trip to avoid the risks of drinking and driving, only to be injured or killed at the hands of an allegedly drunk driver.

Both the limo driver and the pickup truck driver suffered injuries, but they were not life-threatening. The police chief said Saturday's crash was "one of the worst accidents I've ever seen."

Also killed in the crash were 23-year-old Brittney Schulman, 23, of Smithtown; 24-year-old Lauren Baruch, also of Smithtown; and 23-year-old Stephanie Belli, of nearby Kings Park.

"As a family, we're obviously devastated by the loss of my daughter," said Steven Baruch, his voice choking up at times as he spoke by phone about his daughter, Lauren Baruch. "We loved her more than anything. Now I have to bury my daughter."

Of the three patients being cared for at Stony Brook University Hospital, Alicia Arundel and Olga Lipets are in good condition, while Melissa Crai is in fair condition. Carlos Pino, the driver of the limo, has been released from hospital. The condition of Joelle Dimonte has not been released.

Each of the patients sustained multiple injuries, but Dr. James Vosswinkel at Stony Brook said all are expected to have a "favorable outcome."

Police said Monday that Romeo tried to walk away from the scene after the crash, staying at the scene for 15 minutes before he was seen walking away. He got about 1,000 feet, climbed over a fence and down an embankment, Spota said, and initially kept walking after a police officer told him to stop. He eventually stopped and was administered a field sobriety test.

Romeo, of Southold, was arraigned Sunday at his hospital bedside at Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport on one misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated, and pleaded not guilty. Bail was set at $500,000 cash or $1 million bond. He is to appear in court again on Friday.

According to court documents, the arresting officer had the following description of Romeo's behavior: "The defendant had a odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath, slurred speech, blood-shot glassy eyes and was unsteady on his feet. The defendant failed the standardized field sobriety tests and ARIDE tests administered by the undersigned officer."

The DA said Romeo admitted that he had some beer while doing housework before the accident, but blood test results are still pending.

The Suffolk County Sheriff's Office says Romeo remains hospitalized. He is in the custody of the Sheriff's Office and will be moved to the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverhead when he's discharged.

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(Some information from the Associated Press.)
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