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Parents Of UM Student Hit & Killed Testify In Driver's Trial

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Parents of a University of Miami (UM) student killed after a car slammed into her and another student testified on Friday.

Ying Chen's mother, Wang Qingyun, held a photo of her daughter in her lap as she testified using a translator.

"Every day with her was a happy day for me," the mother said.

The mom showed a photo of her daughter standing by the Statue of Liberty shortly after arriving in America.  She said Chen was pursuing the American dream, and knew that opportunities here surpass those she would have in China.

"She told me 'mom the sky is so blue here, the air is so fresh, the people are so nice," said Wang.

The dead girl's mother wept frequently as she spoke of her loss.

"I don't know sometimes if I am alive or if I'm dead. I would rather die," she said.

While families of the two victims wept much of the day, others shared in their grief.

At one point a female juror was visibly moved, dabbing tears from her eyes.

Meantime, the driver who killed the students and is being sued for negligence, Milady Pequeno, sat at the defense table weeping as the dead girl's mother testified.

Chen's father, Xinzhou Chen, also took the stand and described his daughter as a "very happy," fun loving child as a little girl, and a hard- working student.  He showed the jury family photos, posing proudly when she graduated with her Master's degree from Peking University and a sad photo of her grave in China, her picture on her tombstone.

He described a daughter who was a musician, athlete, and gifted scholar.

He recalled the whole family taking her to the airport when she left to attend graduate school at UM.  The father broke down then, his voice choking.

"We never knew this was the last time we would see her," he said, struggling to speak through his tears.

"We feel our world has fallen apart," the father said.  "It's devastating to me.  We still cannot accept this is reality."

The assistant medical examiner testified earlier on Friday.

The Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Kenneth Hutchins testified that both students suffered multiple broken bones, skull fractures and internal injuries.

As autopsy photos were displayed on a large projection screen, the parents of the victims wept in the gallery.  Unable to continue watching photos of their daughter, the mother and father of Chen buried their heads behind the courtroom bench in front of them, their shoulders shaking as they quietly sobbed.  Their child, a brilliant engineering student, was petite, just five feet tall, weighing 73 pounds.  The medical examiner said both victims struggled to breathe for several minutes after being struck.

During cross examination,the coroner said both students would have been rendered unconscious instantly, suggesting they did not consciously suffer.  This is important in the case because, in a civil lawsuit, the jury can weigh suffering in awarding damages, if any.  The suffering emanating from the family members in the courtroom was palpable.

All this just days after Pequeno, who hit and killed Chen, 27, and Hau Liu, 26 in 2014, testified before the court in the civil case against her.

Related: Driver Who Hit, Killed UM Students Takes The Stand

Pequeno's Porsche slammed into the students as they crossed Kendall Drive at an intersection just east of Dixie Highway at about 8 p.m. on October 16, 2014. Pequeno sped off after the incident, according to police.

"Never, never," she replied on Wednesday when asked if she saw them coming or passing in front of her car. 

Plaintiff attorney Deborah Gander had brought in the wrecked front end and windshield of Pequeno's car, trying to get her to acknowledge that the students crossed a lane of traffic, and passed almost entirely across the front of the car before being struck. 

Pequeno admitted driving on after the impact and being made to stop by another driver about a block away.

"He was screaming at you, 'you killed them!' correct, asked Gander. "Yes," Pequeno replied.

Pequeno has claimed an SUV, driving in the lane beside her, may have screened her view of the students crossing the roadway.

Earlier on Wednesday, other witnesses took the stand, including an off-duty officer who tried to save the students.
Related: Jury Hears Civil Case Against Woman Who Hit, Killed UM Students

Miami Police Lieutenant Javier Ortiz testified that the impact of the car hitting the students was so loud, he heard it from inside his car as he drove from a CVS nearby. 

When he got to the scene,  Ortiz said he began CPR on Chen, believing her to be the one most seriously hurt.

During his testimony, the officer looked directly at the victims' parents in the courtroom, and his voice choked as he apologized for not being able to do more to help their children.  

The case is being heard by a six member jury of three men and three women.  In a rare departure, Judge Sanchez-Llorens has permitted members of the jury to be video taped.  At the request of CBS4 News, the judge polled the jurors, and none objected to being televised. 

Both sides expect closing arguments to happen next week.

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