Passenger testifies in trial for man accused of killing Miami Heat dancer

Manuel Careaga charged with DUI manslaughter in 2010 crash

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A man who was riding in the car with Mario Careaga testified in court Tuesday that his partner had two or three vodka and tonic drinks before getting behind the wheel of his Mercedes Benz.

Careaga, 46, is charged with DUI manslaughter in the Sept. 10, 2010, crash that killed Nancy Lopez-Ruiz. His trial began Tuesday.

Ryan Stapleton testified for the state that he was riding in the car with Careaga after they'd just come from an event at the Galleria in Fort Lauderdale.

"I said to Mario, 'Watch out for that motorcycle,'" Stapleton said.

Stapleton recalled seeing Lopez-Ruiz park in the median as they approached the fork in the road where Sunrise Boulevard splits into Federal Highway. He described the aftermath of the impact in emotional detail.

"I saw a young lady laying in the road," Stapleton recalled. "I immediately went up to her. Her soul had already left her body, and I began to pray."

According to the police report, the car swerved across three lanes of traffic before it plowed into Lopez-Ruiz.

Other drivers on the road that night said no other vehicles interfered with the car to make it swerve.

Assistant state attorney Kristi MacKenzie said the reason Careaga collided with the woman on the motorcycle was because he was incapable of reacting fast enough to avoid her.

"He had the time. He had his own eyes. He has his passenger's eyes. He had his passenger's warning, and still he couldn't avoid Nancy," MacKenzie told jurors. "And that's because of his alcohol consumption that night."

Lopez-Ruiz, 22, was about to begin her first season as a Miami Heat dancer when she was killed.

Her parents, Adela and Armando Lopez, were in court as jury selection began Monday. They said they have been waiting three-and-a-half years and plan to be there throughout the trial, which is expected to last several days.

"We are suffering," Adela Lopez said as she walked into the Broward County courthouse. "This is a long journey and it will be for the rest of our lives."

For Adela and Armando Lopez, the pain of losing their daughter never goes away.

"I miss everything about her like any mother would," Adela Lopez said. "Every child is your life."

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