Off-Duty Firefighter To Be Arraigned On DWI, Neg Homicide Charges

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A devastating wrong-way crash killed a mother of three in White Plains early Monday morning, and an off-duty firefighter has been charged in connection with the crash.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, officials said Monday evening that the accused drunken driver has been in trouble before.

Reyda La Madrid, 47, of Harrison, was out delivering newspapers around 4:30 a.m. Monday, in a gray Honda being driven by her husband, Edgar Lopez, 49, officials said. The Honda was struck head-on by a Chevrolet Tahoe on South Lexington Avenue, police said.

La Madrid was pronounced dead at the scene. Lopez was hospitalized.

“I just couldn’t believe it. I was really – I thought it was a nightmare, I thought, and I just didn’t want to hear and see it, you know, my mom was dead,” said La Madrid’s son, Joseph Lopez.

As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, Joseph Lopez said his mother went out of his way to set him on the right path.

“She worked hours and hours to give me a good education,” he said. “She always said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing in school; make me proud.”

Family members said after delivering papers, La Madrid would put in 12-hour shift at a restaurant in Port Chester. The goal of her hard work was putting her kids through college.

“Reyda was a wonderful woman,” said Anna Siconolfi, a friend of the victim’s. “Every time I used to see her, she always had a smile on her face.”

The Tahoe that struck La Madrid and her husband’s Honda was moving so fast that it spun around after impact and skidded backwards 200 feet into the lobby of a nearby office building, leaving the Honda in the middle of the street, CBS2’s Lou Young reported.

SUV in Lobby After wrong-way crash in White Plains (Lou Young/CBS 2)

SUV in Lobby After wrong-way crash in White Plains (Lou Young/CBS 2)

“It was a tremendous, high-impact crash absolutely,” said White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong. “By what the initial accident investigation is revealing, it seems like the vehicles collided in the intersection and the one vehicle which was an SUV, pushed the other, smaller vehicle, which was a passenger vehicle, close to 200 feet,” said Chong.

The driver of the Tahoe was 34-year-old White Plains firefighter Erik Refvik, CBS2’s Lou Young reported.

Just seeing the eviscerated car on the street sent chills down the spines of many witnesses.

“It’s very scary,” a witness said.

“This is one I’ve never seen,” another witness said.

Chong, who is in charge of the police and fire departments, said the off-duty Refvik was drunk.

“We have a preliminary blood alcohol reading of .145, which is close to double the limit,” Chong said.

Refvik was arraigned bedside at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla on criminally negligent homicide and driving while intoxicated charges, Young reported. His bail was set at $25,000.

Refvik has an earlier DWI conviction, in Manhattan from 2003, when his blood alcohol level was 2.8. That amounts to more than three times the legal limit.

Refvik avoided jail with a suspended license and a promise to seek treatment. He became a White Plains firefighter seven years ago.

The four-year White Plains Fire Department veteran was assigned to fire headquarters in downtown White Plains, just steps from the busy bar strip on Mamaroneck Avenue. Detectives Monday evening were trying to retrace his movements on Sunday night, but it appeared that he was on the way home when the accident happened.

“It’s a tragedy all around, and three lives are forever affected by this,” Chong said.

Refvik’s sport-utility vehicle was impounded as evidence. He was suspended from his job without pay.

Edgar Lopez was in serious condition at Westchester Medical Center Monday evening.

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