CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island man has admitted to driving while intoxicated in connection with a crash that claimed the life of a longtime nurse last summer.

Ryan Gurecki, a 35-year-old carpenter, admitted to drinking five beers at work, jumping behind the wheel and slamming into Karen Holden’s vehicle on Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station on June 26, 2016, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.

Karen Holden (Credit: CBS2)

The 56-year-old mother, who was sitting in the back seat, was killed, while her husband and son were injured. They were traveling to Virginia to help their other son and daughter-in-law paint their new house.

“The victims of DWIs, their lives are never the same,” Holden’s husband, William, said outside court Tuesday, barely able to contain his composure.

She was a wife, mother of two boys, admired nurse at St. Francis Hospital and a champion of the community, McLogan reported.

“Always a smile when she walked into a room. She lit up the room,” William said. 

Holden’s family was in court Tuesday as Gurecki entered a guilty plea. He will be sentenced to spend six to 18 years in prison, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.

“When somebody’s taken from you in that manner, it’s hard to get over,” William said.

“Sadly, this has become an epidemic. This is no longer just the murder of my sister,” Holden’s sister, Lynne Pallmeyer, said.

Gurecki’s blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.13, which is well over the legal limit. Prosecutors said he had a horrible driving recorded that included a past DWI, license suspension and accidents.

“I want to know why he’s had multiple offenses and they handed him back his keys,” Pallmeyer said.

That may be why Gurecki agreed to forgo a trial and plead guilty, McLogan reported.

An online petition initiated by Holden’s family aims to keep Gurecki behind bars while challenging lawmakers to toughen penalties.

“The sentence right now it doesn’t bring Karen back. All my hatred and my anger is only wasted. We just need to accept what the court is going to do, try and move on with our lives,” William said. “We’re trying to find some normalcy in our lives and I don’t think we’re ever going to find that.”

Holden’s family also started a campaign, Keys for Karen, to get bar and restaurant owners to designate a box at their establishments where patrons can leave their keys if they plan on drinking.

Gurecki will be sentenced in May. He pledged to change while in prison and to help bring peace to the family.