The driver of a pickup truck that crashed into a van of 15 Minnesotans after a Twins spring training game faces a battery of drunken driving charges, Florida authorities said. He was ordered held without bond Thursday.
Florida authorities said Nisbany Surit Garcias, 30, of Fort Myers, Fla., was drunk when he crashed into the van that was transporting a group of family and friends to Fort Lauderdale after a Twins spring training game in Fort Myers Tuesday.
The van rolled over several times, fatally wounding 18-year-old Lauren VanReese, a 2017 Blaine High School graduate from Andover. Fourteen others in the van, some as young as 4, were taken to the hospital for treatment, according to a Florida Highway Patrol crash report.
Among those listed as seriously injured was Paul White, 49, who in 2013 won nearly $150 million in a Powerball drawing. White’s partner, Kimberly VanReese, 50, of Andover, is Lauren’s mother. She was in fair condition Thursday.
Authorities said the crash happened just after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday on a section of Interstate 75 known as Alligator Alley. Lauren VanReese was thrown from the van and died at the scene, said patrol spokesman Lt. Alvaro Feola.
Garcias faces charges of DUI manslaughter, DUI causing serious bodily injury and DUI with damage to property. Witnesses told police they saw Garcias in a black Ford F-150 driving recklessly and that he nearly caused several wrecks in the southbound lanes of I-75 in the moments before the deadly crash near milepost 41. That’s where Garcias allegedly changed lanes and struck the Minnesotans’ van as it drove in the left lane. The impact forced the van into the grassy median where it rolled several times before stopping in the northbound lanes, the crash report said.
Broward County deputies and paramedics at the scene said Garcias appeared to be impaired and smelled of alcohol. He was taken to a hospital with minor injuries.
A trooper’s report said Garcias’ injuries were consistent with him being the driver.
A trooper who spoke with Garcias in the hospital several hours after the crash said his speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot and watery. When asked to perform field sobriety tests, he “swayed while balancing” while performing a one-leg stand, the report said.
Blood samples showed Garcias had a blood-alcohol content of .182 percent, well above the legal limit for driving of .08 percent, the arrest report said.
After he was released from the hospital, Garcias was booked into the Broward County jail.
Friends of Lauren VanReese took the news hard.
“You were one beautiful person, and I was sooo fortunate enough to know you,” friend Mariana Martinez wrote on Facebook. “You fly high, and watch out for us down here. ... RIP angel.”
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768