Investigators are investigating a fire accident that killed 9 people, including college golfers and a 13-year-old boy
By CEDAR ATTANASIO, JILL BLEED and ANITA SNOW, Associated Press
HOBBS, NM (AP) – Authorities are trying to determine why a pickup truck crossed the opposite lane on a dark two-lane highway in West Texas before colliding head-on with a pickup truck, killing nine people, including six New Mexico college students and a golf coach, as well as a 13-year-old boy.
The Southwest University students, including one from Portugal and one from Mexico, and the coach were returning from a golf tournament. The van driver was also killed in the violent accident on Tuesday evening, while two Canadian students were hospitalized in critical condition.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team of investigators to the crash site in Andrews County, Texas, about 30 miles east of the New Mexico state line.
The golf team was traveling in a 2017 Ford Transit van that was towing a trailer when it collided with the truck, and both vehicles caught fire, according to NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss.
He said the vehicles collided on a two-lane tarmac highway where the speed limit is 75 mph, although investigators have yet to determine how fast either vehicle was traveling.
The Texas Department of Public Safety identified the deceased as: golf coach Tyler James, 26, of Hobbs, New Mexico; and players Mauricio Sanchez, 19, from Mexico; Travis Garcia, 19, of Pleasanton, Texas; Jackson Zinn, 22, of Westminster, Colorado; Karisa Raines, 21, of Fort Stockton, Texas; Laci Stone, 18, of Nocona, Texas; and Tiago Sousa, 18, from Portugal.
Henrich Siemans, 38, of Seminole County, Texas, and an unidentified 13-year-old boy who were traveling with him in the 2007 Dodge 2500 pickup were also killed.
Canadian students Dayton Price, 19, of Mississauga, Ont., and Hayden Underhill, 20, of Amherstview, Ont., were seriously injured in the van. Both were taken by helicopter to Lubbock University Medical Center, about 110 miles to the northeast.
Underhill’s brother Drew said their parents, Ken and Wendy, were on a plane to Texas.
“Hockey was a big part of his life for a while, but his real passion is golf,” said Drew Underhill. “Coming from a small town in Ontario, he’s doing well.
The Mexican Golf Federation has posted a note of condolence online to the loved ones of Mauricio Sanchez.
Stone’s mother opened up about her loss on Facebook on Wednesday.
“She has been an absolute ray of sunshine during this short time on earth,” Chelsi Stone said in a post. “…We will never be the same after this and we just don’t understand how this happened to our amazing, beautiful, smart and cheerful daughter.”
James’ mother, June James, said she knew little about the circumstances of the collision. He coached both men and women.
“We don’t know what happened. It’s a huge survey. We have no idea at the moment,” James said in a brief phone interview.
Team member Jasmin Collum was scheduled to play but decided at the last minute to visit her parents in Houston, her mother said.
“We knew all of these people on board,” Tonya Collum said. “Basically the whole team is gone or in the hospital.”
Southwestern University is a private Christian college located in Hobbs, New Mexico near the border with Texas.
A memorial was erected Wednesday at the course near the campus where the team practices. There were flowers, golf balls and a handmade sign with a cross and the initials USW.