A Lindenhurst carpenter accused of driving drunk in a Sunday night crash that killed a Huntington Station nurse and injured her husband and their youngest son, told police at the scene he drank five beers at work earlier, prosecutors said Monday.
Ryan Gurecki, 34, of Catskill Avenue, made the comment to Suffolk police officers after the crash at Route 110 and Jericho Turnpike, on the border of South Huntington and Huntington Station, said Suffolk district attorney spokesman Robert Clifford.
Police said Gurecki — convicted in 2006 of driving while intoxicated — was behind the wheel of a 2010 Ford Explorer about 9:23 p.m. Sunday when he slammed into a 2016 Ford Escape stopped at a red light on the westbound Jericho Turnpike, waiting to turn left onto Route 110.
“This family is devastated,” said Lynne Pallmeyer, 53, of East Northport, a sister of Karen Holden, 56, who police said died in the crash. “We have lost our heart. I’ve lost my best friend. I’ve lost everything. . . . I’m brokenhearted because she had so much to live for.”
Holden, a passenger in the Escape who worked as a registered nurse at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, was taken to Huntington Hospital, along with her husband of more than 30 years, William Holden, 57, and son, Robert, 23, police said.
William Holden suffered a head injury and Robert Holden a back injury, police said. Both were listed in stable condition.
Karen Holden and her son had spent Sunday at their backyard pool with relatives and also preparing to leave that night with the family dog Maverick for a Virginia road trip to visit eldest son Ken, and his wife, Cynthia, Pallmeyer said. William Holden spent the day at work.
Ken Holden had recently been hired at a police department in Northern Virginia, and Karen Holden, along with her husband, a chef, and their youngest son, planned to help paint the couple’s new apartment, Pallmeyer said.
They had just left home for the trip when the Explorer hit them, Suffolk police said.
According to Clifford, Gurecki told officers he drank “at my job site, five Heinekens,” before getting into the SUV and crashing into the Holdens.
He pleaded not guilty to driving while intoxicated at his arraignment Monday at Suffolk District Court in Central Islip and bail was set at $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond.
Clifford said Gurecki “refused a Breathalyzer, failed a field sobriety test and we secured a blood warrant but no results are back for the test.”
Gurecki received a $700 fine and three years probation after a 2006 guilty plea in Quogue Village Court to misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, Clifford said.
Sunday night, the Explorer also sideswiped a 2014 Honda Odyssey waiting to make a left turn onto Route 110, police said. The driver, Hyun Chung, 59, of Melville, escaped injury, police said.
Pallmeyer described her older sister as “a bright light.”
“She made everybody happy the minute she walked in the door,” Pallmeyer said Monday night. “She was fun, and funny and smart and beautiful. She was the most giving woman you’ll ever meet.”
Karen Holden graduated from John H. Glenn High School in Elwood and earned a nursing degree from Farmingdale State, Pallmeyer said.
She loved everything about her job, specifically “helping people, and loving people and taking care of people,” Pallmeyer said, adding that for her sister, nursing provided a constant “sense of gratitude when she could make someone well.”
Monday night, neighbors of the Holdens said they were still in shock as they waited for updates on the survivors and word from the father and son on how they could help.
“We all band together,” said one resident on the quiet street who did not give his name. “This is our family, and we take the good and the bad and the worst apparently.”
For the Holdens’ neighbors, the search Sunday night for the Holdens’ dog, who ran from the wreckage, was a sign of how much they adored Karen.
Neighbors found the dog, a Belgian Malinois, uninjured in a nearby sump, his fur covered with some of the white paint the family planned to use in Virginia.
“All of Huntington went out last night and searched for the dog,” said neighbor Deb Geller.
Myrna Tils, the “grandmother” of the block, said Karen’s caring nature was obvious when the two found a blind dog wandering in the area and Karen took him in.
“She would always be there for anyone,” Tils said.
Holden, a registered nurse since September 1987 “served the hospital with distinction” said Paul Barry, vice-president of marketing for Catholic Health Services of Long Island, in a statement.
“Most recently she has been working part-time on the night-shift on an inpatient unit specializing in the care of cancer patients. She was loved by her co-workers and they were devastated to hear the news of her death. Our hearts are with her family during this sad time,” the statement said.
All three vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is continuing, police said.
Anyone with more information is asked to call the Major Case Unit at 631-852-6555.
Gurecki’s attorney Michael Gajdos, whose practice is in Nesconset, could not be reached for comment.
With Gary Dymski and Ellen Yan