LUBBOCK, Texas (KLBK/KAMC) – A 13-year-old child was behind the wheel of a Dodge pickup truck when it crashed into a van carrying members of the University of the Southwest golf team Tuesday, March 15, according to officials with the National Transportation Safety Board. In all, nine people were killed, including the 13-year-old.
“A 13-year-old child was behind the wheel of the pickup truck,” Bruce Landsberg, vice chairman of NTSB, said at a press conference. “It appears at this point in the investigation that the left front tire, which was a spare tire, had failed, which resulted in the vehicle pulling hard to the left and crossing into the opposing lane.”
Because a child must be 15 to receive a provisional license in Texas and 14 to begin taking courses, the 13-year-old driving would be breaking the law, according to The Associated Press.
The Texas Department of Public Safety identified the deceased as: Golf coach Tyler James, 26, of Hobbs, New Mexico; and players Mauricio Sanchez, 19, of 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, of Portugal.
Also killed were Henrich Siemens, 38, of Seminole County, Texas, and the unidentified 13-year-old boy who were in the 2007 Dodge 2500 pickup.
Critically injured aboard the van were Canadian students Dayton Price, 19, of Mississauga, Ontario, and Hayden Underhill, 20, of Amherstview, Ontario. Both were taken by helicopter to the University Medical Center in Lubbock, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) to the northeast.
“They are both stable and recovering and every day making more and more progress,” University of the Southwest Provost Ryan Tipton said Thursday of the two injured students.
Underhill’s brother Drew said their parents, Ken and Wendy, flew to Texas.
“Hockey was a big part of life for a while, but his true passion is golf,” Drew Underhill said. “From a small town in Ontario, he’s doing OK.”
The Mexican Federation of Golf posted an online note of condolence to the loved ones of Mauricio Sanchez.
Sousa was from Portugal’s southern coast, where he graduated from high school last summer before heading to college in the U.S., said Renata Afonso, head of the Escola Secundária de Loulé.
“Any school would be delighted to have had him as a student,” she said.
Stone’s mother wrote of her loss on Facebook Wednesday, March 16.
“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, joyful girl.”
James’ mother, June James, said she knew little about the circumstances of the collision. He coached the men and the women.
“We don’t know what happened. It’s a huge investigation. We don’t have any idea as of yet,” James said during a brief phone interview.
Team member Jasmin Collum had been scheduled to play but at the last minute decided instead to visit her parents in Houston, her mother said.
“We knew all those people on board,” Tonya Collum said. “Basically the whole team is gone or in the hospital.”
The University of the Southwest is a private, Christian college located in Hobbs, New Mexico, near the state line with Texas.
A memorial was set up Wednesday at the course near campus where the team practices. There were flowers, golf balls and a handmade sign with a cross and the initials USW.
“It’s the very least we could to for the players, and of course Coach James,” said Rockwind Community Links Manager Ben Kirkes.
“These kids were great kids and they were great, great community members,” Kirkes said.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said on Facebook that she is “deeply saddened” by the loss of life.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also expressed sympathy, saying: “We grieve with the loved ones of the individuals whose lives were horrifically taken too soon in this fatal vehicle crash near Andrews last night.”
The teams had been taking part in a golf tournament at Midland College, about 315 miles (505 kilometers) west of Dallas.
“We are still learning the details about the accident but we are devastated and deeply saddened to learn about the loss of our students’ lives and their coach,” University President Quint Thurman said in a statement.
The university said on Twitter that counseling and religious services would be available on campus.
Midland College said Wednesday’s play would be canceled because of the crash. Eleven schools were participating in the event.
The passenger in the Dodge 2500 pickup, 37-year-old Henrich Siemons, was also killed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.