- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

CUTCHOGUE, N.Y. (AP) — A driver whose pickup truck slammed into a limousine in Long Island wine country, killing four young women, is being held on $500,000 bail after pleading not guilty at his hospital arraignment.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, his top investigators and Southold Town police Chief Martin Flatley appeared Monday at the crash intersection in Cutchogue, where flowers were placed at a makeshift memorial.

Steven Romeo was arraigned Sunday on a misdemeanor DWI charge at Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport.

His lawyer, Dan O’Brien, offered condolences and said his client had remained at the crash scene. “It’s a tough situation,” O’Brien said.

Spota said at a news conference Monday that Romeo remained at the scene for about 15 minutes and spoke with law enforcement officers before fleeing. He was found hiding in a nearby wooded area following the crash.

Flatley identified the dead as Brittany M. Schulman, 23, of Smithtown, on Long Island’s North Shore; Lauren Baruch, 24, also of Smithtown; Stephanie Belli, 23, of nearby Kings Park; and Amy R. Grabina, 23, of Commack, also on the North Shore.

Four other women and the limo driver were hospitalized.

The longtime friends had been at a winery on Long Island’s East End on Saturday afternoon. Several dozen wineries scattered throughout the region feature wine tastings, including live music on summer weekends. The wineries are about 75 to 100 miles east of New York City.

Their driver was trying to make a U-turn at an intersection along Route 48 in Cutchogue when the pickup hit the limo broadside, authorities said.

The intersection has long concerned residents because of the convergence of limousines making U-turns amid oncoming traffic on the rural road, Newsday said.

It was the second Long Island crash with multiple fatalities in a week.

On July 12, a man and his two children, ages 8 and 4, were killed when their car was rear-ended and burst into flames on the Southern State Parkway in Bay Shore. His wife, the children’s mother, escaped without physical injury. The other motorist was charged with driving while intoxicated.

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