Updated August 5, 2020 - 12:05 pm
The driver of an SUV that police say fatally struck two 16-year-old Las Vegas girls in a crosswalk Monday night was arrested on suspicion of driving while impaired.
The Metropolitan Police Department said Ebone Whitaker, 38, of Las Vegas, was driving a 2012 Mercedes-Benz south on Maryland Parkway, approaching the intersection with Katie Avenue, when she lost control of the vehicle.
The SUV veered to the right, went over the curb and struck a traffic sign before continuing south and hitting the two girls as they were crossing Katie in a marked crosswalk, police said in a release Tuesday.
One of the teens was forced into the road and ended up underneath another vehicle driven by a 55-year-old Las Vegas man. The second teen was thrown into a nearby McDonald’s drive-thru lane, police said. Whitaker’s vehicle continued on, striking a tree and a traffic pole before stopping. The fallen tree struck two other vehicles.
Citlali Mora died at the scene from multiple blunt force injuries, according to the Clark County coroner’s office.
Nelly Amaya-Ramirez was taken to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, where she died from multiple blunt force injuries, the coroner’s office said.
Both deaths were ruled accidental.
Las Vegas police initially said both teens were 17.
Whitaker was seriously injured and “displayed signs of being impaired,” police said. She remained hospitalized Tuesday at Sunrise, where police said she was being held on suspicion of driving under the influence resulting in death.
At a brief court hearing Tuesday, which Whitaker did not attend, prosecutors said they expected blood test results by Wednesday.
Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure referenced “extraordinarily serious charges” related to the crash and Whitaker’s “significant prior criminal history” before saying another judge should set bail later this week.
Court records show that Whitaker has faced drug-related charges in Las Vegas dating to 2007 and pleaded guilty to a charge of malicious injury to a vehicle after she admitted to kicking out a police car window in 2004.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson called the deaths “another tragedy” and said that “this defendant appears to have been driving under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs.”
The Las Vegas police traffic bureau posted on its Facebook page about the crash Tuesday morning.
“A horrific and 100 percent preventable fatal crash took the lives of two pedestrians at Maryland Parkway/Katie,” the traffic bureau wrote. “Both juveniles were crossing the street when a suspected impaired driver plowed into them while they were in the crosswalk.”
‘Hearts of gold’
An online fundraiser has been set up for the girls. As of Tuesday night, the page had raised more than $4,000.
“They were bright teenagers with a whole future ahead of them. Although it is hard to process how unfair this is, we know they are in a better place together. They were the best of friends and beautiful girls with hearts of gold,” the page reads.
On Tuesday night, friends remembered Mora and Amaya-Ramirez as inseparable friends and talented mariachi members.
“I had cheered on the same cheer team with Nelly, and she was a very amazing athlete,” said Leon Amado Pineda, 16. “She played guitar for the mariachi program in our middle school. She was also an amazing vocalist. They both have the kindest hearts, the smartest brains and the most talented people I could possibly meet.”
Pineda said that he met the girls in middle school and that Mora played violin at Del Sol High School.
Pineda and Amaya-Ramirez’s former cheer coach, Cecilee French, said Amaya-Ramirez had a big spirit despite her small frame.
“She was really tiny, but she had a big personality,” French said. “She performed her heart out every single time.”
French also taught Mora, who would hang out in the gym during cheer practice while waiting for Amaya-Ramirez after school.
Fellow Del Sol sophomore Debbie Carrillo, 16, said they helped break her out of her freshman fears.
“(Mora) was never the type to be so negative around other people,” Carrillo said. “She was so angelic-like. She had a big heart for everyone. The mariachi community is staying strong for them.”
Contact Sabrina Schnur at email@example.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter. Contact Glenn Puit at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer David Ferrara contributed to this report.