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Mar 31, 2009 6:55 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton man arrested, charged with fleeing scene of fatal accident

Mar 31, 2009 6:55 PM

An East Hampton man pleaded not guilty on Monday afternoon to charges that he fled the scene of an accident in Southampton on Saturday morning that claimed the life of his 46-year-old female passenger.

Southampton Town Police said Luis A. Bermeo, 43, was driving the Nissan Pathfinder involved in the head-on collision that killed Delfina Orrego of Amagansett. Police said he climbed out of the wreck and ran away from the chaotic accident scene even after several witnesses told him to stay put.

After fleeing, “he took a taxi to meet up with some friends,” Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Shalvey said during Mr. Bermeo’s arraignment at Southampton Town Justice Court.

Mr. Bermeo turned himself in at police headquarters in Hampton Bays on Sunday night and confessed that he was involved in the accident and left the scene, Ms. Shalvey said. Police said he did not offer a reason for fleeing.

A witness, Chithta Phong Phanh of Springs, said she was driving west with her boyfriend on County Road 39, in the lane right next to the Nissan, when the accident happened.

“It was really scary—two cars going at least 45 going straight into each other—and the guy in the van had no time to react,” Ms. Phong Phanh said.

In the moments before the crash, Ms. Phong Phanh said she noticed the Nissan swerve slightly into the center turning lane, move back into its lane, then accelerate straight into the oncoming van.

“Just seeing the impact happen, we just really thought that there were no survivors,” Ms. Phong Phanh said.

Ms. Phong Phanh and her boyfriend stopped to call 911 and to see if they could help the victims. The boyfriend saw Mr. Bermeo stumbling around the crash scene, but didn’t see him leaving. “We don’t know when he left,” Ms. Phong Phanh said. “He could have been stunned and not even knowing what he was doing.”

Detective Sergeant Randy Hintze said Town Police detectives are continuing to investigate the cause of the crash and have several theories about why Mr. Bermeo ran—none of which the detective sergeant would discuss.

Mr. Bermeo turned himself in on Sunday night and was charged with leaving the scene of an incident involving death and leaving the scene of an incident involving serious physical injury, both felonies; leaving the scene of an incident involving physical injury, a misdemeanor; and driving without a license, a violation. He is being held at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside after failing to post $100,000 bail.

Det. Sgt. Hintze said Mr. Bermeo and Ms. Orrego were friends, but police don’t know where they were headed at the time of the accident.

Ms. Orrego’s husband, Genaro Vega, said he does not know who Mr. Bermeo is or if his late wife, with whom he had five children, knew the driver of the vehicle before that day, or had simply gotten a ride from him, as she sometimes did from helpful friends who found her waiting at a bus stop.

“That’s a piece of the puzzle that we can’t find—if she knows him, or if she was asking for rides,” said Ms. Orrego’s sister, Vitalina Kelly of Montauk.

“This has destroyed me,” said Mr. Vega, speaking in Spanish on Tuesday. “I loved my wife very much. There should be justice for this man who left my children without their mother.”

Mr. Vega said his wife worked as a prep cook at Harvest Restaurant in Montauk, and she left their home in Amagansett at 8 a.m. on the morning of the accident to catch a bus. She left with her uniform and everything else she brings to work as usual, he said.

According to Ms. Kelly, her late sister was supposed to be at a gathering for religious women on Saturday morning before her shift at Harvest started at 11 a.m.

Oswaldo Palomo, the minister of Comunidad Cristiana Renacer, which co-sponsored the event, said Ms. Orrego never made it to the gathering

at Incarnation Lutheran Church in Bridgehampton. The crash occurred several miles to the west of the church, just west of Southampton Village.

Ms. Orrego migrated, illegally, to the United States six years ago from Poptun, Peten, Guatemala, according to her family.

Pastor Hector Ocasio of the Church of the Nazarene of Amagansett, of which Ms. Orrego was a member, is raising money so her family can afford to send her remains to Guatemala for burial. The church is holding a memorial service for Ms. Orrego at 17 Meetinghouse Lane in Amagansett on Thursday, April 2, between 6 and 9 p.m.

“She was an exemplary church member,” Pastor Ocasio said. “She was present at all services and very loved by the church. For that reason, the church is going the extra mile to help her get home.”

Mr. Vega said he wishes to follow his wife to Guatemala but can’t. “My problem is that while, with all my soul, I want to return with her, because I am illegal, I then could not return to this country and finish working,” Mr. Vega said.

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the charges will include the confusion of "working hard to create a better life for his family" and killing someone and fleeing the scene of the crime.
By hamptons surfer (79), southampton on Mar 30, 09 3:08 PM
" the charges will include the confusion of "working hard to create a better life for his family" and killing someone and fleeing the scene of the crime. "

Say what ?
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Mar 30, 09 3:23 PM
Andrea Schiavoni should be ashamed of this . I am sorry I voted for her!
By Boomer (6), southampton on Mar 30, 09 4:54 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By typical (63), southampton on Mar 30, 09 4:56 PM
great scrape up 4000.00 for killing someone and goodbye you will never see him again
By pinga (90), hamptonbays on Mar 30, 09 6:00 PM
My thoughts exactly pinga ! He's not a legal citizen. He's a very high flight risk and he gets 4000.00 bail !!! What a joke !
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Mar 30, 09 6:04 PM
he won't do time either, just watch
By typical (63), southampton on Mar 30, 09 8:09 PM
just a slap on the wrist, bad murderer bad
By typical (63), southampton on Mar 30, 09 8:09 PM
More than unbelievable..... not guilty? Legal aid? I just don't get it. Save the taxpayers the cost of a trial DEPORT HIM!!!! Duh, Dumb ass politicians and bleeding heart liberals have made our system a joke.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Mar 30, 09 8:24 PM
When are we going to say enough is enough. Did I miss the sign saying Hey come here illegally, drive illegally, we will give you food, shelter and an education and oh yeah if you happen to kill someone, run from the scene you can get out of jail for only $4000! Now if I did that, not only would I lose my house, job, kids and oh yeah be rotting in jail for leaving the scene of an accident that caused someone to lose their life. He obviously had no remorse when he was running hailing a cab, you ...more
By Fedup (1), Southampton on Mar 30, 09 10:05 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By hamptons surfer (79), southampton on Mar 31, 09 6:44 AM
In defense of the Judge, she, unlike most of you thus far, knows that an undocumented alien who fails to post bail in the court will certainly have an immigration hold placed upon him as soon as he arrives at the Riverhead jail; this defendant therefore isn't going anywhere until his case is completed and he serves his time. At that point he will be deported.
By SamIAm (36), hampton bays on Mar 31, 09 8:33 AM
Hey Fedup + Squeaky: why not storm the jail house and lynch him? And while we're at it lets get rid of gays, Jews, blacks and all other "undesirables".

the truth is, if you or I did this we would have had the same bail or even lower. Having a car accident doesn't make you a murderer - what is wrong with you people?
By littleplains (305), olde england on Mar 31, 09 9:37 AM
"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Ignorance and inconsideration are the two great causes of the ruin of mankind." - John Tillotson

By WHBYankee (17), Westhampton Beach on Mar 31, 09 10:00 AM
Littleplains, yup if I had an accident here, I would get the same bail. But you are forgetting he is here illegally and not a citizen therefore should not have the same considerations. Now that being said, if he were not here, she would be alive and with her family. I would also like to see you go to his country , illegally of course, and see what kind of legal aid, housing and education you get for free. Let me know how it works out.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Mar 31, 09 10:24 AM
Being able to express one's true feelings while remaining anonymous is both a blessing to those of us who are not ready to speak out loud whether out of cowardice or from fear of retribution, and horrifying revealing when reading some of the more hateful comments.
There is no question that the man involved in the accident is very aware of the bigotry and hate-filled sentiment behind many of the remarks i am reading here. Checkout - http://www.splcenter.org/news/item.jsp?aid=366
If I found ...more
By bambi (76), bridgehampton on Mar 31, 09 10:57 AM
bambi, can you please help us to understand what its like to be so incredibly evolved. you must have a difficult time on earth with us lower species.
By hamptons surfer (79), southampton on Mar 31, 09 11:30 AM
According to the Town Justice Court, there was a bail hearing Tuesday and bail was changed to $100,000. The story is being updated to reflect that.
By BOReilly (135), Hampton Bays on Mar 31, 09 11:55 AM
I'm glad that all the "experts" here like Ice Cream Man can somehow determine - without a trial - that leaving the scene of an accident, having no car insurance, and worst of all, being an illegal, qualifies as "manslaughter, close enough". Do you even have an idea what manslaughter is?

By the way Squeaky - foreigners and illegal aliens actually do have many of the same legal freedoms here as citizens. Supreme Court ruled that way decades ago - lets overturn it and throw out the First ...more
By littleplains (305), olde england on Mar 31, 09 1:43 PM
By GLOJRANS (3), MONTAUK on Mar 31, 09 2:52 PM
Hey littleplains, since this guy is unlicensed...I would think involuntary manslaughter could be applicable. Perhaps you can educate us as to why it would not be.

bambi - good to know if you get into an accident, you would run away and leave the people you injured. Nice set of values and morals.
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Mar 31, 09 4:05 PM
GLOJRANS do you know this is your second comment that's all uppercase/capital letters ? That considered shouting on the internet.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Mar 31, 09 4:45 PM
ridicupous wrote:

Hey littleplains, since this guy is unlicensed...I would think involuntary manslaughter could be applicable. Perhaps you can educate us as to why it would not be.

The fact hat he had no license has NO bearing on the possible manslaughter ( involuntary, vehicular, or otherwise), charges. Intoxication would change the charges, but that does not appear to be an issue here.
Stop thinking and google instead.

Now, if he had a moustache, THAT would mean..........
By Terry (380), Southampton on Mar 31, 09 5:07 PM
I did google Terry.

We all know people with moustaches are very dangerous! :)
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Apr 1, 09 9:05 AM
you're right, faceless. it's only illegals who rape people and have car accidents. No upstanding "Americans" would ever commit crimes. What an absurd, pathetic comment.

Illegals commit way fewer crimes than so-called citizens because they know the consequences are deportation or getting harassed - or worse- by racist jerks like the morons in Patchogue who went "Beaner Jumping".
By littleplains (305), olde england on Apr 1, 09 1:59 PM
yea little plains theres a difference. Both 'sides'(illegal and legal) commit crimes, but only one usually gets punished because they are documented and able to be found. If this guy did not turn himself in, I doubt they would have found him. What would they have to go on, color of clothes, race, height? They could change their clothes and mix in with the rest. People who are legal and commit crimes usually get caught and go to jail. Happens rarely with illegals and if so they take up unnecessary ...more
By OrignialLocal (34), Southampton on Apr 1, 09 7:45 PM
Not to mention, according the Justice Department "Roughly 17 percent of the prison population at the federal level are illegal aliens. That's a huge number since illegal aliens only account for about 3 percent of the total population."

Fewer than half the foreigners convicted of crimes in the U.S. -- most of whom are in the country illegally -- are deported after serving their sentences, according to the Homeland Security Department's inspector general.

You don't say....

By Simon (16), Southampton on Apr 2, 09 2:00 PM