University of the Southwest

6 Students Among 9 Killed in Fiery West Texas Crash Involving USW Golf Teams

Six students and a faculty member were killed in the crash along with the driver and a passenger in the pickup truck, Texas DPS says

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What to Know

  • The head-on crash between two vehicles killed nine people, including six students and a coach from the University of the Southwest golf program.
  • A pickup truck crossed the centerline of a two-lane road in Andrews County, near Midland-Odessa, and collided with the van carrying the golf teams.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

Authorities are trying to determine why a pickup truck crossed into the opposite lane on a darkened, two-lane West Texas highway before colliding head-on with a van, killing nine people including six New Mexico college students and a golf coach, as well as a 13-year-old boy.

The University of the Southwest students, including one from Portugal and one from Mexico, and the coach were returning from a golf tournament. Also killed in Tuesday evening’s fiery crash was a man in the pickup with the boy. Two Canadian students were hospitalized in critical condition.

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending an investigative team to the crash site in Texas’ Andrews County, about 30 miles east of the New Mexico state line.

The golf teams were traveling in a 2017 Ford Transit van that was towing a box trailer when it collided with the truck, and both vehicles burst into flames, according to NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss.

He said the vehicles collided on a two-lane asphalt highway where the speed limit is 75 mph, though investigators have not yet determined 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, 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 an unidentified 13-year-old boy who were in the 2007 Dodge 2500 pickup. Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Steven Blanco said Thursday that investigators have not yet confirmed who was driving either vehicle because of the severity of the crash and the fire that occurred afterward.

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 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.

“One of the students is eating chicken soup,” said Tipton, calling their recovery “a game of inches.”

Tipton said University President Quint Thurman personally visited the students’ parents at the hospital, illustrating the close community at the college that has only about 350 on-campus 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.

“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.”

Stone graduated in 2021 from Nocona High School, where she played golf, volleyball and softball. She was a freshman majoring in global business management, according to her biography on the golf team’s website.

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.

Tipton, the college provost, said the college does “an outstanding and amazing job of recruiting” international students for its athletics program.

“Part of the sport is being part of a family,” he said of the international students. “They have close ties to the sport and their families.”

“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."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

A memorial was set up Wednesday at the course near campus where the team practices, with flowers, golf balls and a handmade sign.

“It’s the very least we could to for the players, and of course Coach James,” said Rockwind Community Links Manager Ben Kirkes.

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.

“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,” Abbott said.

The teams had been taking part in a golf tournament at Midland College, about 315 miles west of Dallas.

The university said on Twitter that counseling and religious services would be available on campus.

Midland College canceled Wednesday’s play because of the crash. Eleven schools had been scheduled to participate.

The crash happened in the same area — but not the same roadway — where three people were killed in November when a pickup truck crashed into a school bus carrying members of the Andrews High School band.

The high school's band director, the school bus driver and the driver of the pickup truck all died in that crash.

Copyright NBC 5 News and The Associated Press
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