By Jano Tantongco
After a Huntington Station woman was killed Sunday in a three-vehicle crash involving an alleged drunk driver, the woman’s sister has started a campaign to prevent drunk driving by urging establishment owners to withhold car keys from potentially drunk patrons.
Lynne Rogers Pallmeyer launched the “Keys For Karen” campaign on Wednesday, days after her sister, Karen Holden, of Huntington Station, was killed in a crash involving an alleged drunk driver.
“She was remarkable in every way,” Pallmeyer, 53, said of her sister, who was a nurse at St. Francis Hospital in Flower Hill. “She could fix everything, from a toaster oven to a heart. She was beyond special. She is leaving the biggest void on the planet.”
Pallmeyer added that Holden graduated from Elwood-John Glenn High School, and grew up in Huntington. Holden has two other siblings, William Rogers and Kristin Rogers-Anderson.
The campaign (Keysforkaren.com), which Pallmeyer started with the help of daughter Audrey, asks managers and/or owners at establishments where alcohol is consumed to require patrons to deposit car keys into “Keys For Karen” boxes. Keys would only be given back if the patron is deemed fit to drive.
“It’s up to the person who is throwing the parties, who owns the establishment, who is responsible for putting that alcohol out on that table that they cannot hand over those keys until they know that that person is OK enough to drive,” Pallmeyer said.
On Sunday, Suffolk County police arrested 34-year-old Ryan Gurecki in connection to the car crash in Huntington Station that killed 56-year-old Holden, and injured her husband, William, 57, and son, Robert, 23.
Police said Gurecki was driving his 2010 Ford Explorer westbound on Jericho Turnpike at around 9:23 p.m. when he collided with the Holden’s 2016 Ford Escape, which was stopped at a red light westbound on the turnpike. Police said Gurecki’s vehicle also sideswiped a 2014 Honda Odyssey driven by Hyun Chung, 59, of Melville, who was not injured.
The Holden family was transported by the Huntington Community First Aid Squad to Huntington Hospital, where Karen died from her injuries. Officials said William Holden suffered head injuries, and Robert Holden sustained a back injury.
All three vehicles were impounded for safety checks. The investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information about this crash to call the Major Case Unit at 631-852-6555.
According to Pallmeyer, the Holden family was traveling to Virginia to help son Kenneth Holden and his wife decorate their new home. Kenneth Holden just completed his third year in the U.S. Army, Pallmeyer said.
The Holdens’ dog, Maverick, was also in the vehicle during the crash, according to Pallmeyer. Maverick was found later with cuts on her front paws, and covered in the paint that was to be adorned on the new Holden home in Virginia.
A witness at the crash scene said Gurecki’s vehicle came to a stop after hitting a tree, according to Robert Clifford, a spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota. Clifford added that a witness said the car was traveling “at a high rate of speed.”
Gurecki, a carpenter living in Lindenhurst, told police he had five beers at his place of employment, Clifford added.
Clifford also confirmed Wednesday that a blood test found Gurecki’s blood alcohol concentration to be 0.13 percent, which is over the legal limit in the state of New York.
Additional drug tests were still being performed, which may take up to a month, Clifford added. Once the investigation by the district attorney’s vehicular crimes bureau is complete, the information will be presented to a grand jury, which may then decide whether or not to upgrade Gurecki’s charges, Clifford said.
Gurecki was arraigned Monday morning at First District Court in Central Islip. He pled not guilty to a charge of driving while intoxicated. He was held on a $250,000 cash bail, with a $500,000 bond.
Gurecki was also previously convicted on a misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charge in September 2006, according to Clifford. Gurecki received a $750 fine with three years’ probation with drug and alcohol conditions. Additionally, Gurecki was convicted for driving while impaired in 2002 for an incident that occurred in West Babylon.
A GoFundMe page (Gofundme.com/2bkatf8) has also been established for the Holden family to help cover medical expenses, legal fees and funeral costs. As of Wednesday’s deadline, $44,203 had been raised, with a $60,000 goal.