An off-duty Costa Mesa fire captain died from his injuries Monday morning after he was hit Saturday while riding his bicycle by a driver suspected of being under the influence of drugs, authorities said.
In announcing the death of Capt. Mike Kreza, 44, the Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue Department said, “Words alone cannot describe the immeasurable heartache felt by his friends and family, including his fire family.”
“RIP brother Mike; we love you!” the department said in a statement on Twitter.
Kreza was riding his bicycle east on Alicia Parkway in Mission Viejo at about 8 a.m. when a van hit him, the fire department and Orange County Sheriff’s Department said in a joint statement, citing witness statements.
When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, Kreza was lying unresponsive on the road, “with visible head and body trauma,” the statement said.
The driver of the van, Stephen Taylor Scarpa, 25, of Mission Viejo, remained at the scene and had “multiple prescription medications” in his vehicle, authorities said.
Scarpa was arrested on suspicion of felony driving under the influence and was booked into Orange County Jail with bail set at $100,000. He is scheduled for arraignment Tuesday.
Kreza, an 18-year veteran of Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue, was stationed at Fire Station 6 on Sakioka Drive.
“He was one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet” and “always had a smile on his face,” department spokesman Chris Coates said.
Costa Mesa fire and police officials gathered outside Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo on Monday morning as Kreza’s body was loaded into a white van to be taken with a procession to the Orange County coroner’s office. Two motorcycle officers led the van away from the hospital. The coroner transport vehicle was flanked by fire and police officials and accompanied by helicopters overhead.
Firefighters stopped on several freeway overpasses and climbed to the top of their trucks and saluted to pay their respects as the van made its way through Orange County.
Fire and police personnel from Newport Beach, Orange, Santa Ana and the sheriff’s office were present to salute Kreza’s body and family members upon arrival at the coroner’s office.
Deputies with the Sheriff’s Department had held a candlelight vigil for Kreza on Saturday evening.
The Costa Mesa Firefighters Assn., the firefighters’ union, wrote on Facebook that Kreza had been training for Ironman Arizona, a triathlon consisting of a swim, bicycle ride and marathon.
Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue and the firefighters association declined to provide further information about Kreza or his family, requesting privacy.
The department’s “sole focus today is to support the family and make sure they are taken care of,” Coates said.
Costa Mesa community members, some of whom had never met Kreza, dropped off flowers and cards at fire stations in his memory. His death also was met with an outpouring of support from fire and police agencies across the state.
“He was a hero and passed away too early in life,” a Laguna Beach Police Department statement on Twitter said Monday.
“On behalf of the entire Costa Mesa fire family, we want to thank the communities through Orange County and the entire state for their support,” Coates said.
A fund to help Kreza’s family was set up over the weekend at gofundme.com/the-kreza-family-fund, with donations going to the Costa Mesa Firefighters Assn. Widow and Orphans Fund.
As of Monday morning, the fund had raised more than $100,000, easily surpassing its $25,000 goal.
Los Angeles Times staff writers Hannah Fry and Hailey Branson-Potts and KTLA contributed to this report.
12:45 p.m. Nov. 5: This article was updated throughout.
7:30 a.m. Nov. 5: This article was updated with Kreza’s death and additional information and comments.
9 p.m. Nov. 4: This article was updated throughout.
This article was originally published at 8:05 a.m. Nov. 4.