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Smithtown grieves, looks to come together after the deaths of four young residents

The four who died in the crash were

The four who died in the crash were Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park; Lauren Baruch, 24, and Brittney M. Schulman, 23, both of Smithtown; and Amy R. Grabina, 23, of Commack. Credit: Facebook

When Liz Scarpa-Lauro heard of the deaths of four young Smithtown women in a Cutchogue limo crash, she grieved for them like any mother would. Then she channeled that sorrow.

The mother of three children, including two teenage daughters not much younger than the victims, solicited the interest level for a candlelight vigil from several mothers' Facebook groups early Sunday. People immediately embraced her suggestion.

"It's really affected our community but on a really wonderful positive note, we've come together on this," Scarpa-Lauro, 48, a 10-year Smithtown resident, said Monday. "We're one big family."

Like Scarpa-Lauro, news of the women's deaths -- in a crash allegedly involving a drunken driver -- in Cutchogue left many in Smithtown stunned, speechless and seeking to unite around the tragedy.

Residents will likely get their chance at Scarpa-Lauro's "Candlelight Vigil for Our Girls," tentatively set for Wednesday, July 29, at the Smithtown High School West football field.

Three of the victims -- Brittney M. Schulman, 23; Lauren Baruch, 24; and Stephanie Belli, 23, graduated from Smithtown High School West.

The fourth, Amy Grabina, 23, graduated from Commack High School.

"As a mom, my heart is breaking for the families," said Scarpa-Lauro. She is also helping to tie red ribbons -- for the color of Mothers Against Drunk Driving -- on trees across town.

The Long Island MADD chapter said it hopes to combine efforts with Scarpa-Lauro.

At Smithtown Bagels, a man could be seen shaking his head Monday in disbelief. It was not an uncommon sight inside the popular eatery.

"A lot of people who came in today were speechless," said Seth Wilkinson, 35, an employee.

Police said the suspected drunken driver, Steven Romeo, 55, of Southold, broadsided a limo carrying the eight passengers on Saturday in Cutchogue as the limo driver attempted to make a U-turn on Route 48.

Four passengers and both drivers were injured.

"As a parent, there's just no words. . . . They were trying to do the absolute right thing," said Pamela Murphy, 57, a Suffolk County resident dining at The Millennium Diner in Smithtown with her husband.

Grabina, an accountant at Ernst & Young, was a 2010 Commack High graduate.

Baruch and Belli were best friends, and Schulman graduated around the same time.

"Their personalities and memories they left behind are still remembered by those who had the honor and pleasure of knowing them while in school," Superintendent James Grossane said Monday in a statement.

Belli, of Kings Park, a 2010 graduate, was known for her "infectious smile, great sense of humor" and her fun, loving personality, district officials said.

She was also a member of the district's championship kickline team, officials said.

Schulman, also a 2010 graduate, was a "good student, hardworking and always responsible" and known for her "bubbly and vibrant personality," officials said.

Baruch graduated in 2009. She was described as a great student, and as a "kind person with a positive attitude, booming laugh and unforgettable smile."

St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Kings Park will be the location for funerals and memorial services for three of the women.

Grabina's funeral is Tuesday at noon at Gutterman's Funeral Home in Woodbury. A memorial service for Baruch will also take place Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. at the church. Schulman's funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Information on services for Belli was not available.

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