Arrest made in death of Bayshore High grad, Miami Heat cheerleader

rdymond@bradenton.comMarch 19, 2011 

MANATEE -- There would have been much happier reasons for the Lopez family from Manatee County to be journeying to Miami on Thursday .

But that was before their 22-year-old daughter, Nancy G. Lopez-Ruiz, a dancer for the NBA’s Miami Heat, died when her Suzuki GSX R motorcycle was struck by a Mercedes last September.

The family will meet Thursday with the prosecutor handling the case against Mario Careaga, 43, who was arrested Friday on two DUI manslaughter charges connected to the Sept. 10 accident that claimed the life of Lopez-Ruiz, said Adela Lopez, Lopez-Ruiz’s mother.

“The state’s attorney will be talking to us about the upcoming trial,” Lopez said Friday. “I had a horrible night and a horrible day today. When they told me he was arrested it brought back so many memories.”

Lopez-Ruiz was a graduate of Bayshore High school and a former Honey Bear dancer.

Police say Careaga veered out of his lane in the 700 block of East Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale and hit the motorcycle being driven by Lopez-Ruiz, who had been hired by the NBA team in June and was coming home from practice the night of her death.

At the accident scene, Careaga told police he had consumed two vodka drinks before the crash, according to the Associated Press.

Lopez-Ruiz, who lived in Plantation, was thrown from the motorcycle and died.

“He bonded out already,” Stephanie Lopez, one of Lopez-Ruiz’s four sisters, said Friday of Careaga, just hours after his arrest.

“I hope they take people like this off the streets,” Adela Lopez said. “This was my daughter. The next victim could be someone’s else’s daughter. I believe in the system. I believe this will all work out. This is a tragedy that has changed the lives of everyone.”

Lopez-Ruiz, an organ and skin tissue donor, was an athlete from her early days. At age 9 she won a national aerobics dance competition.

Her career as a dancer delighted her mother, Adela, a teacher; her father, Armando, a retired aviation mechanic; and her four sisters -- Marjorie, Indira, Meylin and Stephanie.

Stephanie said her mother is still heartsick.

“She is not well,” Stephanie said of Adela. “No matter what happens Nancy is never coming back.”

Lopez-Ruiz’s death was devastating to the entire family, whose roots are in Nicaragua.

“I don’t know what to say,” Adela Lopez said Friday. “Nothing will bring her back. I want to send a message to people to remember Nancy as a beautiful young lady, and not to drink and drive and to make better choices.”

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.

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