The former Southold High School math teacher arrested following a fatal crash in Jamesport this past January pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor Driving While Intoxicated charge in connection with the crash.
With her change in plea, Diane O’Neill, 66, of Farmingville will avoid jail time. She was ordered to pay about $1,200 in fines.
The crash claimed the life of George Kurovics, a 90-year-old barber who was believed to have gotten out of the truck he was driving after spotting the family’s cat walking along Main Road in Jamesport. Ms. O’Neill had been westbound in her 2007 Mercedes-Benz on Main Road near Herricks Lane shortly after 7:15 p.m. when the crash occurred, according to a police report.
Appearing before Judge Allen Smith in Riverhead Town Justice Court Monday, Ms. O’Neill admitted to drinking two glasses of white wine before getting behind the wheel to drive home. In a statement, she said she wished to express her “deepest sympathy to the Kurovics family.”
“I lost my mom, my dad and my husband of 40 years so I know how to grieve loss,” she said.
Assistant District Attorney Daniel Cronin said there was not enough evidence to consider an upgraded charge against Ms. O’Neill. He added that Ms. O’Neill’s blood alcohol level of .08 percent and the fact that she immediately stopped and notified police made the prosecution comfortable accepting the guilty plea Monday.
Speaking both inside and outside the courtroom, Mr. Kurovics’ family expressed disappointment with the disposition of the case.
“Diane O’Neill, your personal connection to George doesn’t compare to that of the people who love and miss him,” Mr. Kurovics’ wife Joyce, read aloud in the courtroom. “You took his life and the punishment doesn’t equal the pain and suffering we endure. We lost someone irreplacable, a valued life and you still have yours.”
His son, George Jr., later told a reporter he wishes there were “more justice.”
Mr. Kurovics’ daughter, Linda Shropshire, said not a day goes by she doesn’t think of her father, who at the time of his death was still working five days a week at George’s Rocky Point Barbershop on Broadway in Rocky Point.
“He was a great guy,” she said. “I loved him and he touched so many lives.”
Ms. Kurovics said she hopes other drivers learn from what happened to her husband so that “something good comes out of it.”
Ms. O’Neill, who had entered a not guilty plea in January, retired from her job in the Southold School District soon after her arrest. She had taught there for more than 20 years.
Top Caption: Diane O’Neill enters court in Riverhead January 14. (Credit: Paul Squire)