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4 women killed when pickup hits limo in Cutchogue

The scene on Route 48 and Depot Road

The scene on Route 48 and Depot Road in Cutchogue, where a crash between a limousine and a pickup truck resulted in multiple fatalities on Saturday, July 18, 2015. Credit: Randee Daddona

Four women with a bachelorette party were killed Saturday when an alleged drunken driver plowed his pickup into their limo as it left a vineyard in Cutchogue, police said.

The pickup plowed into the side of the black limousine about 5 p.m. at the intersection of Depot Lane and Route 48, police said. Three women died at the scene and one died at a hospital, Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said.

They were believed to be from the New York City area, police said.

Three other women and the two drivers were injured.

None of the identities of the two vehicles' occupants were released last night.

Flatley said the limousine, carrying seven women and a driver, had just left Vineyard 48 and was trying to make a U-turn to head west on Route 48 at the crossroads, which has two yellow flashing caution lights going east and west. There are red flashing lights heading north and south on Depot Lane.

The limo's right side was smashed by the red pickup truck, which was heading west on Route 48. It was not known if the limousine cut in front of truck, Flatley said.

"He [the pickup driver] hit the brakes right before and he broadsided the limo right on the passenger side," he said.

A driver passing by, Ted Webb, 76, of Orient, said he called 911 as he jumped out of his car and ran to the limo.

But then he looked into the back of the limo and saw two women wearing black dresses.

"They looked like they were in a state of shock. They weren't screaming or shouting," he said. "They're sitting in the back and they saw what happened directly in front of them."

Webb said he didn't see anyone in the middle seat of the limo, "But I realize now, [that was] because the front end of the pickup truck was embedded into the limo."

"They had to die instantly. There was no noise. No screaming, no shouting," Webb said.

The pickup driver ran from the crash scene, but police arrested him nearby and charged him with driving while intoxicated, authorities said. While his name was not released, police said he is a resident of the North Fork.

Three women were declared dead inside the limousine. Two others were flown by helicopters to Stony Brook University Hospital and two were taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center, where one died and the other was being treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The drivers, including the one arrested, were brought to Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport.

Route 48, which is one of the main North Fork thoroughfares, was closed both ways from Mattituck to Southold because of the crash.

"This is one of the worst accidents I've ever seen," Flatley said.

Lynne Lulfs of Hampton Bays said she pulled up next to the crash immediately after it happened. As she and her husband passed the limo, she said she could see three women hanging out the left side of the limo.

Several other drivers rushed to the limo passengers' aid before police and firefighters arrived. Lulfs said she saw a man sitting in the back of the pickup, shaken and drinking water. Police said he ran away before they arrived.

"We're real sick about it," Lulfs said.

"It's just a tragedy. They were celebrating a wonderful milestone, then to have this tragedy in their lives," Lulfs said. "To witness such a tragedy . . . one minute of celebration and death the next, is so hard to comprehend."

The intersection has long been a point of contention for residents who say limos on vineyard tours make dangerous U-turns.

Bill Shipman, who lives directly across the street from Vineyard 48, which is just west of Depot Lane, said residents have complained about limos backing into traffic on Route 48 to complete their turns.

He said the town has added flashing lights and changed the traffic pattern to direct limos to turn left on Depot Lane instead of making a U-turn on Route 48, but many drivers don't follow directions.

"This is the thing we've complained about since 2010 and it still goes on every week," Shipman said. "They block the lanes of traffic and back up to make their turns. It's a disaster. I've said a limo is going to get T-boned here."

Shipman said he told Southold officials, "If you don't address this, you'll have a fatality in a limo."

Another resident, Michael Eckhardt, was attending a family gathering near the crash scene. He said several drivers have been ticketed for making illegal turns. He advocated adding a full-stop light at the intersection.

"There's not enough room to make a U-turn," Eckhardt said. "You think you're all safe renting a limo and then -- boom."

This was the second multi-fatal crash on Long Island this past week. Early last Sunday, a Toyota driven by Ancio Ostane, 37, of St. Albans, Queens, was rear-ended by an alleged drunken driver on the Southern State Parkway. Ostane and his children, Andy, 8, and Sephora, 4 were killed.

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