By Janee Law
Karla Kovach, a longtime Huntington Hospital employee, is remembered as the life of the party, who always had a smile on her face, and the world’s biggest Starbucks fan, said her step-brother, Bruce Butler Jr.
Kovach, 52, of East Northport, died Monday night in a four-vehicle crash in East Northport, outside of Mario’s Pizza on Larkfield Road. Suffolk Police Second Squad detectives are continuing their investigation of the crash, which also left another driver in serious condition.
Kovach, was driving a 2008 Kia northbound on Larkfield Road, near 5th Avenue, when at 9:50 p.m. her vehicle struck a 2008 Nissan that was “slowing in traffic,” police said. The Nissan, driven by Darin Costello, of Northport, then struck the side of Mario’s Pizza, at 311A Larkfield Road.
After striking the Nissan, Kovach’s Kia spun into the rear of a 2013 Mercedes, which was driven by Elias François, of East Northport, who was traveling with two child passengers, according to police. The collision forced the Mercedes into the rear of a 2011 Cadillac, driven by Anthony Nullet, of East Northport. The Cadillac was stopped northbound on Larkfield Road.
East Northport Fire Department, Greenlawn Fire Department and Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps. responded to the crash. East Northport firefighters used heavy rescue extrication tools to remove victims from the cars. The victims were transported to hospitals.
Kovach was brought to Huntington Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, according to police. Her Kia was impounded for a safety inspection.
Costello, 37, was brought to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore where he was still being treated for serious injuries as of deadline Wednesday.
François, 46, and her two child passengers were brought to Huntington Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
Nullet, 25, and his passenger were not injured.
Police said that no one at the pizzeria, which was open at the time, was injured in the crash. On Tuesday, there was a note left on the building that stated, “Out of respect to the families involved in the auto accident outside of our store, we will be closed until further notice. We are still in shock from this tragedy. We would like to take a step back and allow everyone their time to grieve.”
Suffolk police said the cause of the crash is still unknown, and that they are continuing to investigate. Police are also asking anyone with information to call Second Precinct detectives at 631-854-8252.
Butler, 66, of upstate Newburgh, said he was in shock when he heard the news of his sister’s death.
“She always had good things to say about people and always had a positive outlook,” Butler said. “Everybody wishes they could’ve been Karla when it came to loving life.”
Career oriented, Kovach never married and never had children, Butler said. “She was always trying to work and always trying to get herself ahead.”
Kovach traveled a lot and was also a dog walker, which is reflective of her love for pets, Butler said.
Kovach’s sister, Linda Toole, 57, of Lakeland, Florida, said her family called Kovach “Good Time Charlie.”
“She always made my mother and I laugh until we were rolling on the floor,” Toole added. “She was thoughtful, caring, full of life and a free spirit.
“We will love her always.”
Kovach was an EKG technician and phlebotomist at Huntington Hospital since April 1987.
Diane Demonda, 56, a technician and phlebotomist, worked with Kovach for 23 years. She said that Kovach was a jokester and always put her patients first.
“It was all about the patients,” Demonda said. “She had a big personality, was funny and had the biggest heart. She would do anything for anybody.”
Pat Gagliano, 60, manager of the EKG and EEG department at the hospital, worked with Kovach for 17 years. She said Kovach would talk about her friends, family and people she befriended at Starbucks. Gagliano was in disbelief when she heard the news, she said.
“It’s so hard to believe that she’s gone,” Gagliano said. “She was a big help in the department and was always willing to help somebody. It’s a loss for the hospital because Karla would always go out of her way for the patients.”
Gigliano added that she remembers Kovach as someone who was funny, sassy and loved Starbucks.
Kovach grew up in Commack and attended what was then Commack South High School. She graduated from Suffolk Community College in 1985, according to her LinkedIn page.
She is survived by her mother Mary Butler; sisters Marianne Kneitel and Linda Toole; half-siblings Johnny Kovach and Dawn Stokes; step-brothers Bruce Butler Jr., Brian Butler, Ed Seay and Gary Seay.
Visitation for Kovach will be held Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., at Brueggemann Funeral Home, 522 Larkfield Road, East Northport.