A Woodhaven man driving a delivery van for a gourmet food and catering company early Saturday morning struck and severely injured a Manhattan woman in downtown Montauk, then fled the scene, according to East Hampton Town police. Jose L. Romero-Flores, 33, was charged with misdemeanor drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident after he was stopped some distance away.
The injured woman, Sofia Pitt, 26, was originally to be taken by a Montauk Fire Department ambulance to the Hither Hills overlook, from where she would be flown to Stony Brook University Hospital, the closest hospital with a Level One trauma center.
However, en route, the decision was made that Pitt’s condition was not stable enough to transfer her to a helicopter, and the ambulance continued west to Southampton, according to Montauk Fire Chief Vincent Franzone. He did not know if she was originally admitted to Southampton Hospital, but as of Saturday afternoon, Pitt was a patient at Stony Brook University Hospital where she underwent surgery Monday morning. Several calls to the media office at the hospital over the holiday weekend seeking an update as to her condition went unanswered.
East Hampton Town police said they thought she might have suffered a fractured pelvis.
After being stopped, Romero-Flores allegedly told police, “We hit something on the far right side, but I don’t know what I hit.”
Chief Franzone said Saturday that numerous emergency medical technicians and advanced emergency medical technicians from the Montauk department were on the scene almost immediately.
“She had some of the best care possible,” the chief said. He said that she was in extreme pain.
The police said that Romero-Flores was driving a 2016 Ford van registered to the Todaro Brothers, a 2nd Avenue company that specializes in gourmet food and catering. Romero-Flores was headed west on Main Street, when he struck Pitt, then kept on driving, police said. According to witnesses, the woman was hit with enough force that she somersaulted through the air. Witnesses were not hard to find. Even as police blocked Montauk Highway to investigate the accident, and Montauk EMTs and AEMTs tended to the woman’s injuries, many of the revelers on both sides of the road seemed oblivious to what had happened.
Chief Franzone said that the woman was apparently crossing the street from the Memory Motel to the Point Bar and Grill when she was struck.
The chief has been trying to sound the alarm for some time about the danger of the partiers who flood the streets between the two bars from about midnight to closing time, between 3 and 4 AM.
He said that police have a strong presence in downtown Montauk, and place cones in the middle of the road, yet many drivers do not slow down enough, given the level of foot traffic.
Romero-Flores was brought into East Hampton Town Justice Court Saturday morning, where he was represented by Brian DeSesa, an attorney retained by the state to ensure legal representation during the arraignment process.
Justice Lisa Rana asked Romero-Flores what he did for a living, and was told he is a driver for the Todaro Brothers catering business. “That is going to be a problem for you. Your driving privilege in the State of New York is suspended.” That was based, she said, on the breath test he took at headquarters after his arrest showing a percentage of alcohol in his blood of 0.14 of one percent, well in excess of the 0.08 reading that defines intoxication.
DeSesa said that Romero-Flores had cooperated with the police after his arrest, and had taken the breath test, which would make him eligible for a hardship license to get to and from work, as well as, possibly, a temporary license. Bail was set at $1,500, which was posted via credit card at police headquarters. Romero-Flores is due back in court July 5.
Mike Spano of Todaro Brothers said Saturday that Romero-Flores had permission to drive the van Friday night, but would not comment further.