The two cyclists who died after police say a suspected DUI driver unleashed horror on a busy Las Vegas street had been dating for 10 years.
Antonio Zabala, 36, and Karina Del Carmen Lopez, 37, were riding their bikes on East Flamingo Road east of UNLV just after 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 4. when accused impaired driver Marco Francisco Benitez hit them, police said, with his 2002 Ford Explorer pickup truck.
Lopez was pronounced dead at the scene. Zabala was taken to nearby Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in critical condition and put on life support. On Monday, he succumbed to his injuries, the Clark County coroner’s office said.
“Nothing could describe the pain that we are all feeling right now,” Zabala’s sister Alisia Perez said in a statement to the Review-Journal that also described Zabala as a “loving father, brother and friend.”
Zabala had just moved to Las Vegas about four months earlier from his native Kansas City, his sister said. He was working as an executive sous chef at The Westin Las Vegas and was a “larger-than-life character,” Perez said.
“Everyone and anyone who had the opportunity to meet my brother knew he was special — he was loved by everyone,” Perez said. “He was one in a million.”
“He joins his beloved girlfriend of ten years, Karina Lopez — the other cyclist identified on the scene,” said a GoFundMe entitled “In Loving Memory — Antonio Zabala” that was set up by Perez, with donations to go to Zabala’s family and toward a memorial service for him.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department, Benitez, 27, of Las Vegas, was driving a 2002 Ford truck east on Flamingo when he hit a Kia SUV, then hit the two cyclists, then caused a 10-car pileup at the intersection of Flamingo and South Maryland Parkway.
Benitez had cocaine and marijuana in blood samples that were taken from him after he was also hospitalized with an injured hand after the crashes, police said in an arrest report.
Benitez is charged with 17 criminal counts, including two felony counts of DUI resulting in death or substantial bodily harm. He has pleaded not guilty and was ordered held on $100,000 bail in a court appearance Thursday.
Zabala loved the Kansas City Chiefs, his sister said. He also loved soccer and was preparing to travel to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup, which gets underway on Nov. 20. In a photo posted to a GoFundMe page set up by Perez, Zabala is shown cheering for the Brazilian national soccer team, with a Brazilian flag painted on his face.
“I could go on and on about how impressive this man was. This wasn’t just a loss; this was a tremendous tragedy,” Perez said. “He will be deeply missed but his legacy and spirit will most definitely live on.”