Home / sports / Boy aged 13 was driving truck in crash which killed US college golf team – officials

Boy aged 13 was driving truck in crash which killed US college golf team – officials

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. 


© Eli Hartman / Odessa American via AP
© Eli Hartman / Odessa American via AP

Also killed were the still-unidentified 13-year-old boy and 38-year-old Henrich Siemens from Seminole County, Texas in the 2007 Dodge 2500 pickup truck at the time of the collision.

Additionally, two Canadian USW students – Dayon Price, 19, from Mississauga, Ontario and Hayden Underhill, 20, from Amherstview, Ontario – were hospitalized in critical condition but are now apparently stable after being flown 110 miles away from the crash site to the University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas.

“They are both stable and recovering, and every day making more and more progress,” stated USW Provost Ryan Tipton. “One of the students is eating chicken soup,” he added, calling the students’ recovery “a game of inches.”

USW President Quint Thurman met with the students’ parents at the hospital, Tipton said, as Underhill’s brother Drew confirmed how his mother and father Ken and Wendy had headed to Texas.

“Hockey was a big part of life for a while, but his true passion is golf,” Drew said.

To honor Mauricio Sanchez, the Mexican Federation of Golf posted a note of condolence online as 150 people remembered Zinn at the restaurant he worked at – Texas Roadhouse – and met his girlfriend, who he had been dating for five months.

“We met here exactly at this table,” said Maddy Russell, 20, from Hobbs, where the private Christian university USW has its main campus. 

“He was my heart,” Russell added, saying that “any school would be delighted to have had him as a student”.

Mourners released roughly 100 blue and orange balloons into the air which disappeared into the horizon, and there was also a memorial set up at the course near USW where the team practiced now adorned with flowers, a handmade sign with a cross and the university’s initials, and golf balls.

“It’s the very least we could do for the players, and of course Coach James,” suggested the Rockwind Community Links’ manager Ben Kirkes, who called the young victims “great kids” and “great, great community members.”

On Facebook, Stone’s mother Chelsi wrote about how her daughter had been “an absolute ray of sunshine during this short time on earth”.

“We will never be the same after this and we just don’t understand how this happened to our amazing, beautiful, smart, joyful girl,” she lamented.

Team member Jasmin Collum was scheduled to play at Midland College for USW but instead evaded the tragedy by deciding to visit her parents at the last minute.

“We knew all those people on board,” said Tonya Collum. “Basically the whole team is gone or in the hospital.”

In a bid to help the students grieve and mourn the dead, USW confirmed that on-campus counseling and religious services will be readily available.

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