Trial underway for driver accused of killing Miami Heat dancer - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Trial underway for driver accused of killing Miami Heat dancer

Posted: Updated:
Nancy Lopez-Ruiz Nancy Lopez-Ruiz
Mario Careaga Mario Careaga
Nancy Lopez-Ruiz Nancy Lopez-Ruiz

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WSVN) -- Jury selection is underway in the trial of a South Florida man accused of fatally striking a Miami Heat dancer in a car crash while driving under the influence.

Mario Careaga is facing a DUI manslaughter charge. Police said he was inebriated on the night he struck the Suzuki sport motorcycle 22-year-old Nancy Lopez-Ruiz was riding, on Sept. 10, 2010. The victim had just pulled over in the 700 block of East Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale when, police said, Careaga's white 2009 Mercedes-Benz sedan crossed three traffic lanes and slammed into her bike.

Authorities said Lopez-Ruiz, a Plantation resident, was thrown more than 100 feet into the air before dying at the scene. "For a mother, for a father, yes, it is very, very hard," said Lopez-Ruiz's mother, Adela Lopez. "I have no words to express the pain."

The victim, who had just become a Miami Heat dancer, was reportedly coming home from practice at the time of the collision.

According to investigators, Careaga, a Fort Lauderdale executive, was attending an event at Galleria Mall where, he later told police, he had two vodka drinks. A still picture taken at the mall shows Careaga shopping for jewelry with a glass in his hand.

Police said Careaga's blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit, at .23 and .24 percent. The state legal blood alcohol limit is .08 percent.

Lopez-Ruiz's father said seeing Careaga for the first time was difficult. "It's very hard," he said in Spanish, adding he is nevertheless finding the strength to weather the trial.

For Adela Lopez, the last several years have been very difficult for her family. "It has been three and a half years since our daughter got killed, and it's very emotional," she said. "We are suffering. This is a long journey. It will be for the rest of our lives."

Lopez-Ruiz's mother said her family is leaning on their faith to help them through the ordeal. "We are praying to have that strength, we are praying to God" she said. "It's in the hands of the people who serve justice. We are anticipating that justice will be served."

Jury selection is set to resume Wednesday morning. Careaga's trial is expected to last all week.

Stay tuned to 7News and wsvn.com for the latest updates.


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