Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

Families of four women killed in Long Island limo crash allege there was a cover-up in the investigation involving an undisclosed witness at the scene

  • Brittany Schulman, 23, Lauren Baruch, 24, Stephanie Belli, 23, and Amy Grabina, 23, all lost their lives in July 2015 when Steve Romeo’s pickup truck hit their limo
  • The women had been enjoying an afternoon out at a winery for a friend’s birthday in Cutchogue with four others before the crash
  • Their driver Carlos Pino made a U-turn at a blinking traffic light to head west on Route 48 when Romeo’s red truck T-boned the limo at an intersection
  • Romeo was initially charged with a DUI in the hours after the crash, however he later pleaded not guilty and avoided jail time after striking a no-contest plea 
  • The parents of the four women now say they believe they’ve found evidence of a cover-up in the District Attorney’s investigation into the crash
  • According to their lawyer, an ambulance report has detailed that there was allegedly a passenger in Romeo’s pick-up at the time of the crash
  • The report, authored by Southold EMT Janet Auer, identifies that passenger as Michelle Canberg, whose vitals were taken by an EMT at the scene
  • Canberg, however, says she was simply driving past when the crash occurred and she raced over to the aid of the victims
  • Canberg befriended the survivors, even attending one of their weddings, however has since been cut off from contacting them on their lawyers’ advice
  • Lawyers says that while Canberg did nothing to cause the accident, the lack of any mention of her in a police report points toward a ‘cover-up’

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The parents of four young women tragically killed in 2015 when the limo they were riding in was struck by a suspected drunk driver in Long Island claim a lawsuit they filed has revealed an investigation ‘cover up’ involving a previously undisclosed witness at the scene.

Brittany Schulman, 23, Lauren Baruch, 24, Stephanie Belli, 23, and Amy Grabina, 23, all lost their lives in July 2015 when Steve Romeo’s pickup truck hit their limo with such force that it was almost split in two.

The women had been enjoying an afternoon out at a winery for a friend’s birthday in Cutchogue with four other friends in the moments leading up to the crash.

Their driver Carlos Pino made a U-turn at a blinking traffic light to head west on Route 48 when Romeo’s red truck T-boned the limo at an intersection.

Romeo was initially charged with a DUI in the hours after the crash, however he later pleaded not guilty and avoided jail time after striking a no-contest plea deal with prosecutors in 2017. His driver’s license was suspended for 90 days and he was ordered to pay a £500 fine.

The parents of four young women tragically killed in 2015 when the limo they were riding in was struck by a suspected drunk driver in Long Island claim a lawsuit they filed has revealed an investigation ‘cover up’ involving a previously undisclosed witness at the scene (Felicia Baruch, mother of Lauren Baruch shown left)

Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

Victims: Stephanie Belli (left) and Brittany M Schulman (right) were both killed in the crash

Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

Victims: Lauren Baruch (left) and Amy R Grabina (right) were also killed in the crash

Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

Crash Scene: Romeo’s truck struck the limo after limo driver Carlos Pino made an illegal U-turn, prosecutors said. Though Romeo had been drinking he tested under the legal limit

Citing half a decade of trying to find closure over their daughters’ deaths, the parents of the four women now say they believe they’ve found evidence of a cover-up in the District Attorney’s investigation into the crash.

The stunning allegation was made by attorney Richard Sullivan during a Thursday press conference outside Smithtown High School West, where all four of the girls went to school together.

The event was held as a road in Smithtown was renamed in honor of the crash victims. The families tied a ribbon to the street sign during the ceremony, and spoke about the mystery that still surrounds their deaths.

Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

Steve Romeo’s pickup truck hit their limo with such force that it was almost split in two

According to Sullivan, a civil suit the family filed over the wreck has uncovered the existence of an ambulance report detailing that there was allegedly a passenger in Romeo’s pick-up at the time of the crash, something not not previously been disclosed by police.

The report, authored by Southold EMT Janet Auer, identifies that passenger as Michelle Canberg.

It states that she checked Canberg’s vitals at the scene before she refused further medical attention. The report states she was wearing a seat belt and was not injured, Sullivan said.

‘[Patient] states she was in red pick up truck front passenger seat that impacted limo,’ Auer wrote in the report, according to the Suffolk Times. ‘So we took her inside the police command unit.’

The information was compiled as part of an ambulance report on the crash that evening, however the official police report states that Romeo was alone when his pick-up truck plowed into the side of Pino’s limo.

‘This was all kept a secret,’ Sullivan said of Canberg never being identified as a passenger. ‘Why?’

Sullivan alleged that Canberg’s presence at the scene wasn’t initially revealed as a favor to Romeo, who he said is a ‘very well-known, popular guy in Southold’.

‘It’s a clear cover-up and there’s been a cover-up in this case from Day One,’ Sullivan said, according to the New York Post.

Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

Susan Arundel, mother of survivor Alicia Arundel, is comforted by Felicia Baruch, mother of victim Lauren Baruch

Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

The parents of Amy R Grabina console one another as they head towards the ceremony, with badges baring their daughter’s face pinned to their chests

Canberg, 39, however, contests she was not a passenger in Romeo’s car and was not present at the initial scene of the accident.

On her version of events of what happened on July 18, 2015, Canberg said she had been driving to work with her daughter when she passed by a ‘horrific’ accident on Route 48.

Canberg told the Suffolk Times how she raced over to the wreckage to find a group of women, some badly injured, some lifeless, inside.

‘I just pulled over to do the right thing,’ Canberg told the outlet. ‘I pulled up 45 seconds after the crash.

I pulled right into the median… I walked to the front [of the limo] and it was not a good scene.’

Canberg then says she crouched down next to the mangled limousine, and sat with the four survivors, Joelle DiMonte, 25, Melissa Angela Crai, 23, Alicia Arundel, 24, and Olga Lipets, 24, trying to help them remain conscious until paramedics arrived.

She later befriended the four women, telling them the same story how she stumbled across the crash that day.

In the years since, court records show that Canberg has twice been served with a subpoena to give a deposition in the case but has so far refused to testify.

Canberg, who is married, denied being in Romeo’s truck again on Wednesday when speaking to the Times, insisting she has never met him and hadn’t heard of him until after the incident.

She added that she didn’t want to be take part in any deposition because she ‘doesn’t want to be a part of any lawsuit’ because she’s ‘for the girls’.

In a deposition last June, Romeo testified once again that he was alone when the crash occurred.

During the proceedings, Romeo was shown a photograph of a woman, and, when asked if he knew the person depicted, he replied: ‘No – doesn’t ring a bell. This is the person that was in my car allegedly?’ he asked.

‘I don’t recognize that person,’ he later added when pressed by an attorney.

The transcript of that deposition does not indicated who was depicted in the photograph. Romeo was never asked directly about Canberg.

Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

One of the victims’ mother’s wears a badge on her chest with all eight of the girls pictured together

Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

The event was held as a road in Smithtown was renamed in honor of the crash victims. The families tied a ribbon to the street sign during the ceremony, and spoke about the mystery that still surrounds their deaths

Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

Family members of the young women who were in the tragic limousine crash from five years ago, embrace outside of Smithtown High School

Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

According to Sullivan, a civil suit the family filed over the wreck has uncovered the existence of an ambulance report detailing that there was allegedly a passenger in Romeo’s pick-up at the time of the crash, something not previously disclosed by police. The report, authored by Southold EMT Janet Auer, identifies that passenger as Michelle Canberg

‘It comes down to this,’ Sullivan said. ‘He says she wasn’t [in the truck.] Why would an ambulance attendant fill out an ambulance report that says “patient states she was in the red pick up truck front passenger seat.” Who do you believe?’

Canberg admits she was checked out by an EMT at the instructions of Southold Town detective Kenneth Richert, who she described to the Times as a friend.

That evaluation did take place inside the mobile command unit, as specified in the ambulance report, she conceded.

Canberg says she voiced concern about being spotted at the scene to EMTs but only because her family believed she was at work.

‘[The EMT] asked me that day if I was in the truck,’ Canberg said. ‘I said, “No.” I said “I was just here.” I remember I was all foggy, but I was like “I’m just a person passing and I had nothing to do with this.”‘

Canberg further explained to the outlet that her car wasn’t found at the scene moments after the crash because she ‘didn’t want it to get too barricaded in’.

She said another man at the scene drove her daughter to Deep Water Grille, a restaurant in Greenport where they both worked. After spending time with the victims, Canberg says she was later driven to the restaurant by an EMT.

Canberg reached out to the survivors a month later and befriend them all.

She spent time with their families, attended Joelle DiMonte’s wedding, and would regularly meet up with the survivor’s mothers.

On the first anniversary of the crash, she contacted friends at the Southold Town Police Department to shut down the intersection so the four survivors could visit.

She documented the visit, posing with pictures of each of the four women, on her Instagram account, the Times said.

‘I would always tell them when they would say thank you that I didn’t do much, I couldn’t do much.’

Canberg said her communication with the survivors was swiftly cut off when she was informed by one of the mothers that her attorney advised she no longer speak to her.

Sullivan, meanwhile says that while Canberg did nothing to cause the accident, the lack of any mention of her in a police report points toward a ‘cover-up’, in his opinion.

Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

Survivors: Olga Lipets (left) and Alicia Arundel were among those injured in the crash on Route 48

Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

Joelle DiMonte (left) survived the deadly crash

In addition to the police report, Sullivan says he has uncovered emails that town officials regularly ignored complaints from concerned residents years earlier that the intersection where the fatal crash happened was an ‘accident waiting to happen’.

A 2012 email shows that Cutchogue resident Bill Shipman wrote to a Southold town official asking ‘how many injuries will occur’ at the intersection outfront the since-shuttered Vineyard 48 winebar.

‘0-16 in the limo?

4 in the other car? how many cars at 55 mph+? those are answers none of us would like to see,’ Shipman eerily wrote, three years before his worst fears would be borne out, as reported by the NY Post.

‘This guy predicted the accident three years before it happened and neither the town of Southold nor the county of Suffolk did a thing, not one thing,’ Sullivan said. ‘They didn’t give a damn – it’s that simple’.

In their suit, the families of the four victims are requesting that the town, county, limo company and both drivers in the crash take responsibility for the accident.

Sullivan said while the limo company has made an offer on a settlement, the town and county has so far refused to do so.

Families of four women killed in limo crash claim investigation cover-up as lawsuit alleges

Lauren Baruch’s father Steven speaks during Thursday’s ceremony with his wife, Felicia

In addition to criminal charges being filed against Romeo following the crash, limo driver Carlo Pino, had also been charged with negligent homicide for attempting the ill-fated, illegal U-turn.

However, those charged were dismissed in October 2017, after a Suffolk County Judge dismissed the charge, citing prosecutors improperly presenting evidence to the grand jury.

Prosecutors reached the deal with Romeo after holes emerged in the DUI case they’d hoped to build against the man. 

When he was tested an hour and 40 minutes after the crash, Romeo’s blood-alcohol level was 0.066, below the legal limit, although prosecutors argued it would have likely been above New York’s 0.08 limit at the time of the crash.

Ultimately, the state’s own forensic reconstruction cast doubt on the prosecution’s case.

The Suffolk County Executive’s Office and the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office have not yet responded to a DailyMail.com request for comment. 

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