How the hell did this happen??
You’ve probably heard about this tragedy by now, but if not brace yourself. Nine people were killed in a truly horrible traffic accident near Andrews, Texas on Tuesday night. A van carrying the men’s and women’s golf teams from the University of the Southwest collided head-on with a pickup truck, resulting in the deaths of six students, most of them teenagers, and their coach. You can see the list of casualties (below):
- Coach Tyler James, 26, of Hobbs, New Mexico
- Travis Garcia, 19, of Pleasanton, Texas
- Karissa Raines, 21, of Fort Stockton, Texas
- Mauricio Sanchez, 19, of Mexico
- Laci Stone, 18, of Nocona, Texas
- Tiago Sousa, 18, of Portugal
- Jackson Zinn, 22, of Westminster, Colorado
Two more student golfers present in the van survived the crash and were rushed to the hospital where they’re currently still listed in critical condition.
Both the driver and passenger of the other vehicle, a Ford pickup, were also killed. The passenger was identified by as 38-year-old Heinrich Siemens of Seminole, Texas. And in a shocking revelation on Thursday we learned the driver of that vehicle was a 13-year-old child.
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According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the USW team was on its way back from a competition in Midland. They were on Texas Farm-to-Market Road 1788 when the pickup truck drifted over across the median into the northbound lane — and crashed head-on into the van. Both vehicles caught fire after impact.
Knowing now that the driver at fault was just 13 changes everything here. Suddenly this is no longer an inexplicable tragedy but a very real case in which someone is to blame for these deaths. In Texas, even with a learner’s permit, one has to be at least 15 before they can begin driving with an adult present. Someone broke the law by letting this child behind the wheel, and it cost so many lives, including their own.
National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said the pickup’s front driver’s side tire blew out before the crash — it’s possible that was the reason for the crash, the sudden swerve caused by the flat. However, that doesn’t automatically excuse the wrongdoing here.
This was a child over a year below the limit, driving at night, on the highway. The speed limit on FM 1788 is, in most places, 55 mph. None of this sounds like a driving lesson that should have been attempted by a beginner. And what we’re seeing is the very real consequence of that poor judgment.
We are so sorry to the families of those who were lost — and hope they can find some modicum of justice. The Texas Department of Public Safety and NTSB say they will continue to investigate.
[Image via KOAT Channel 7/YouTube.]