NTSB investigating crash in Texas that killed nine people and left two U. of the Southwest golfers critically injured
(CNN) — Two survivors of a crash that killed nine people in West Texas remain hospitalized and a dozen federal investigators are headed to the scene to look for answers as to what caused the fiery head-on collision Tuesday evening.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, a Dodge 2500 pickup drove into the approaching lane of a highway just outside Andrews, Texas, and hit a Ford Transit van carrying members of the golf teams from the University of the Southwest in New Mexico.
“For unknown reasons, the Dodge pickup drove into the northbound lane and struck the Ford passenger van head on,” DPS Sgt. Steven Blanco said.
Six students and a coach in the van were killed as were the driver of the pickup and a 13-year-old passenger. Two other golfers were in critical condition at University Medical Center of Lubbock, Texas, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a 12-member team to investigate. Spokesman Eric Weiss said Wednesday a fire consumed both vehicles after the “high-energy,” head-on collision.
Emergency responders heading to the crash were told by a dispatcher there were two vehicles on fire with people trapped inside, according to recordings on Broadcastify.com, which monitors radio traffic among many emergency departments.
One of the first responders to arrive said: “All units, I’ve got wrecked units on both sides of the highway, fully involved vehicles. I’m still trying to get up on scene and see what we have.”
Members of the men’s and women’s golf teams at the University of Southwest were traveling back to their Hobbs, New Mexico, campus from a tournament in Midland, Texas, school officials said.
The remainder of the two-day tournament, hosted by Midland College, was canceled. There were 11 schools in the competition, which included both men’s and women’s teams, Midland College Athletic Director Forrest Allen said.
The weather in the area of the crash Tuesday evening was clear with no fog, CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers said. There were no freezing temperatures, and the wind was light at around 5 to 8 mph.
The speed limit on the two-lane roadway is 75 mph, the NTSB’s Weiss said, adding the speed of the vehicles was not immediately known.
‘My teammates and my coach are gone’
As investigators work to determine what caused the deadly collision, the University of the Southwest is dealing with the emotional toll on its community.
“The USW campus community is shocked and saddened today as we mourn the loss of members of our university family,” the university said in a statement
One victim was Laci Stone, a freshman member of the women’s golf team who was majoring in global business management, according to a family member.
“Last night Laci’s golf team was involved in a crash leaving a golf tournament. Our sweet Laci didn’t make it.,” Laci’s mother, Chelsi Stone, posted on Facebook. “Our Laci is gone! She has been an absolute ray of sunshine during this short time on earth.”
Laci, 18, of Nocona, Texas, was one of three siblings.
“We will never be the same after this and we just don’t understand how this happened to our amazing, beautiful, smart, joyful girl,” her mother said.
The school identified the other students who died as Mauricio Sanchez, 19, of Mexico; Travis Garcia, 19, of Pleasanton, Texas; Jackson Zinn, 22, of Westminster, Colorado; Karisa Raines, 21, of Fort Stockton, Texas; and Tiago Sousa, 18, of Portugal.
USW President Quint Thurman confirmed the death of coach Tyler James.
“Great coach and a wonderful man,” Thurman said in an email. “Don’t make them any better!”
James’ bio on the school website said he was in his first season as head coach and played golf at Ottawa University and Howard Payne University.
“He always cared for us and made sure we were always doing good on and off the golf course,” said freshman Phillip Lopez, who did not participate in the tournament.
“I just can’t believe that my teammates and my coach are gone,” Lopez told CNN.
The driver of the Dodge pickup was identified as Henrich Siemens, 38, of Seminole, Texas; the name of a 13-year-old male passenger was not released.
Students Dayton Price, 19, of Mississauga, Ontario, and Hayden Underhill, 20, of Amherstview, Ontario, were hospitalized. GoFundMe fundraisers were started to help pay for victims’ funeral and medical expenses.
A memorial of flowers and golf balls has been set up at the teams’ home course, Rockwind Community Links in Hobbs, CNN affiliate KCBD reported.
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