CARMEL, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A deadly crash this weekend had the Putnam County community of Carmel reeling on two levels.
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, the victim was a beloved teacher’s aide, and the accused drunken driver was a well-known retired police officer.READ MORE: Salami Sticks Sold At Trader Joe's Recalled After Being Linked To Salmonella Outbreak
Police said the drunken driver slammed into the other vehicle late Saturday night on Route 202. Witness Joan Lefurgy said she will never forget the sound.
“A terrible noise,” she said. “So loud, almost like a cannon going off in your house.”
A rear-seat passenger in the broadsided car was killed. The owner of a pizza joint nearby said he could not work anymore after seeing it.
“They just pulled out one of the ladies and you saw that she was just – she was like completely gone,” said Victor Vuljevic, owner of Mike and Joe’s Wood Fired Pizza. “Ever since then, I just like shut everything down.”
Retired Carmel Town Police Officer Richard O’Keefe has been charged with driving while intoxicated, and two counts of vehicular manslaughter.
Carmel Town Supervisor Kevin Schmitt, a former police officer himself, has known O’Keefe a long time.READ MORE: Suffolk Police: Franklyn Charles, 18, Charged In Crash That Killed Jennifer Figueroa, 30, In Wyandanch
“As a police officer, I arrested many people for driving while intoxicated during my career, as Mr. O’Keefe had as well,” Schmitt said.
Carmel is a small town. Just about everybody knows the DWI suspect, and almost no one wanted to talk about it Monday.
O’Keefe is also a former school board member and now a Town Council member. That he is now a defendant in a homicide is mind-boggling to many.
“It’s difficult,” Schmitt said. “You know, because it involves someone who is a family member, and everybody’s saddened by this. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that a life was lost.”
The flag at Primrose Elementary School in Somers flew at half-staff Monday for the woman who was killed in the crash – 53-year-old teacher’s aide Fran Ghelarducci.
Grief counseling was being offered for everyone who knew her.
“She was a very beloved staff member by both students and teachers, and the entire Somers community,” said Somers Public Schools spokesman Matt Carr.MORE NEWS: Small Plane Crash-Lands On Long Island After Experiencing Engine Failure
Ghelarducci’s family members requested privacy as they planned a funeral. Meanwhile, O’Keefe was out of custody on $100,000 bail and was due back in Putnam County Criminal Court in December.