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Limo crash victims Lauren Baruch, Stephanie Belli 'amazing' women, friend says

From left, Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park,

From left, Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park, and Lauren Baruch, 24, of Smithtown, died Saturday, July 18, 2015, after their limo collided with a truck driven by a suspected drunken driver in Cutchogue. Credit: Family photos / Randee Daddona

She was supposed to join her friends on a limousine ride Saturday to the North Fork wineries, but Dana Marie Carlino said she chose to work instead.

Those friends -- Lauren Baruch, 24, of Smithtown and Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park -- died after that limo was hit by a suspected drunken driver in Cutchogue on Saturday night.

Carlino, 23, of Center Moriches, said Sunday that her change of plan disappointed Baruch, a longtime friend.

"I had weeks to plan, I had weeks to take off work, and I just didn't," said Carlino, who works as a receptionist at a Hampton Bays animal clinic. "We had a little fight and she was kind of mad at me, but we made up and the last thing she said to me was, 'I love you so much, Dana.' "

Carlino said she met Baruch 11 years ago at summer camp. They had been close ever since. She met Belli a few years ago through Baruch, and had become friends.

She described Baruch as an independent woman who loved being outside in the sunshine, and wasn't afraid to be the only one on the dance floor.

"She has this energy about her, it's contagious," Carlino said. "She was just positive, she had good vibes."

Carlino said she was angry at the driver of the pickup truck that hit the limo, identified by police as Steven Romeo, 55, of Southold. He was arraigned on a misdemeanor DWI charge Sunday and ordered held on $500,000 cash bail or $1 million bond.

"I want to go to the court date. I want to be there for her," Carlino said. "I want to do whatever I can to make sure this guy stays behind bars for the rest of his life."

Belli was "kind," Carlino said.

According to Belli's Facebook profile, she had studied business at Farmingdale State College and had worked at Steve Madden and LOFT clothing stores, and was currently working as a nanny.

"They were amazing girls," Carlino said. "They were best friends, Stephanie and Lauren."

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