Fort Worth

Vigil Honors Fort Worth Teen Mariachi Singer Killed in Crash

Benjamin Castaneda, 17, was killed in a car crash on Thanksgiving

A 17-year-old Fort Worth mariachi singer who was killed by a suspected drunk driver was remembered Monday as a "smiling kid who was full of life" and for uplifting others through his music.

Benjamin Castaneda was honored at a vigil at North Side High School, where hundreds of fellow students and family members filled the front patio.

"Our little Ben, my boy," said his father whose name also is Benjamin. "It's going to really hurt not watching him grow."

Castaneda was killed early Thanksgiving morning on Loop 820 in North Richland Hills. Police said a car driven by a drunk driver and traveling the wrong direction struck Castaneda’s car.

Neomi Martinez, 29, is charged with intoxication manslaughter.

At the vigil, principal Tony Martinez did his best to comfort his distraught family and friends.

"Words cannot express what you're feeling," Martinez said. "But what we can do is get together as a large family and celebrate his life."

Through all the emotion, through all the overwhelming sadness, members of Castaneda's mariachi band sang their hearts out without him even as they fought back tears.

"As emotional as the days have been and will continue to be, we'll always remember Ben to be that smiling kid who was full of life and happy to be here," mariachi director Ramon Nino said.

The group, called Espuelas de Plata, or Silver Spurs, are all students at North Side. Many have known each other since elementary school.

Castaneda's father pleaded with the young people to learn a lesson from the tragedy: Don't drink and drive.

"That's something everyone should really take to heart," he said.

The crowd released purple balloons into the sky and said a message in unison.

"“We love you Ben."

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