Four charges of criminally negligent homicide have been filed against the limousine driver who allegedly caused the fatal crash last summer that claimed the lives of four of his passengers, a group of women in their 20s on a wine-tasting tour of several vineyards on the North Fork.
Carlos F. Pino, who was a chauffeur for Ultimate Class Limousine of Hicksville, was charged in a 13-count indictment that also included four counts of assault for causing physical injuries to four of his other passengers, young women who were injured but survived the horrific July 18 crash on Sound Avenue in Cutchogue.
The indictment by a special grand jury, which spent months investigating the crash, was announced on March 16 by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota. Mr. Pino, a 58-year-old Bethpage resident and former police detective in his native Chile, pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned before State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho in Central Islip. He remains free on $100,000 bail, and his next court date is April 19.
Citing evidence from witnesses, a crash reconstruction and data analysis, Mr. Spota said that Mr. Pino failed to stop, look for oncoming traffic or take any other precautions before attempting to execute a U-turn into traffic at the intersection of Depot Lane and Suffolk County Route 48.
“There is no evidence that demonstrates he ever came to a stop,” the district attorney said.
Though the grand jury determined that Mr. Pino was solely responsible for the crash, the driver of the pickup truck that broadsided his limousine, Steven Romeo, 55, of Peconic, was charged on three counts, including driving while intoxicated and driving while ability impaired by alcohol. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment before Justice Camacho.
“A perfectly sober Steven Romeo could not avoid this crash, and an intoxicated Steven Romeo could not avoid this crash,” Mr. Spota said. “It was simply unavoidable from Romeo’s perspective.”
He said Mr. Romeo can be held criminally responsible for driving while intoxicated, but can’t be held criminally responsible for the crash. “The person who is criminally responsible for the crash is Carlos Pino and Carlos Pino alone,” he added.