The body of a Costa Mesa fire captain received a procession through Orange County on Monday morning after he died from injuries suffered when he was struck by a van while biking off-duty in Mission Viejo on Saturday. The driver is suspected of being under the influence of drugs.
Costa Mesa fire and police officials gathered at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo to salute Capt. Mike Kreza, 44, who died early Monday.
Kreza’s body was loaded into a white van to be taken with a procession to the Orange County coroner’s office in Santa Ana. 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 his family members upon arrival at the coroner’s office.
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.
In announcing Kreza’s death Monday, 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. Saturday 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 is survived by his wife and daughters.
“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 & 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.
A fund to help Kreza’s family was set up over the weekend at gofundme.com/the-kreza-family-fund.
As of Monday afternoon, the fund had raised more than $114,000, easily surpassing its $25,000 goal.
Kreza was the second Costa Mesa public safety employee to die off-duty recently. In September, police Officer Oscar Reyes, 43, died after a heart attack at his Huntington Beach home.