A 13-year-old was driving the pickup truck that collided head-on with a van and caused an accident that killed him, his male accomplice plus six members of two University of the Southwest (USW) golf teams and their coach, the US National Transportation Safety Board confirmed.
The women’s and men’s golf teams from USW were traveling back from taking part in a golf tournament at nearby Midland College on Tuesday night when the pickup reportedly crossed into the opposite lane of a two-lane darkened highway and caused the tragedy that claimed nine lives in total.
The NTSB sent out an investigative team to the site of the crash in Andrews County, West Texas, which is around 30 miles east of the state line shared with New Mexico.
According to NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg, the truck’s left front tire – a spare – blew out before impact. Though it is unknown how fast the vehicles were traveling on the 75 mph road at the time of the collision before they then burst into flames, Landsberg added that it was “clearly” a high-speed accident.
A spokeswoman at USW, Maria Duarte, declined to pass comment on the NTSB’s revelation regarding the young driver and cited the ongoing investigation.
In Texas, teenagers must be 14 to start taking courses for a learner’s license and 15 to get their provisional license to drive alongside an instructor or licensed adult. As confirmed by Department of Public Safety Sergeant Victor Taylor, a 13-year-old driving the pickup truck in this case would therefore be breaking the law.
The men’s and women’s golf teams were heading home from Midland, around 100 miles away, in a 2017 Ford Transit van towing a box trailer according to NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss.
As identified by the Texas Department of Public Safety the deceased were golf coach Tyler James, 26, from Hobbs, New Mexico and players Mauricio Sanchez, 19, from Mexico, Travis Garcia, 19, from Pleasanton, Texas, Jackson Zinn, 22, from Westminster, Colorado, Karisa Raines, 21, from Fort Stockton, Texas, Laci Stone, 18, from Nocona, Texas, and Tiago Sousa, 18, who hailed from Portugal.