Coach, six college golfers at the University of the Southwest die in car accident on way back from tournament
Six members of the University of the Southwest men’s and women’s golf teams, along with their coach, died on Tuesday night when the passenger van they were in was involved in a two-vehicle collision in West Texas.
The teams were competing in the TankLogix Collegiate at Ranchland Hills Golf Club in Midland, Texas, and driving back to their campus in Hobbs, N.M., along a road in Andrews County. Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Steven Blanco said that at around 8:17 p.m., a Dodge pickup truck crossed over the two-lane road and hit the university-owned van head on. Both vehicles caught on fire and suffered heavy damage.
University president Quint Thurman said in a statement to NBC News that Tyler James, who coached the men's and women's golf teams, was among those killed.
The Texas Department of Public Safety on Wednesday revealed the names of the USW students killed in the crash: Mauricio Sanchez, 19; Travis Garcia, 19; Jackson Zinn, 22; Karisa Raines, 21; Laci Stone, 18; and Tiago Sousa, 18.
Golfers Dayton Price, 19, and Hayden Underhill, 20, survived the crash and were airlifted to a hospital. On Thursday, University of the Southwest Provost Ryan Tipton said that Price and Underhill were making progress in their recovery.
According to Blanco, the two people in the pickup truck also were killed: Henrich Siemens, 38, and a 13-year-old unidentified boy. On Thursday, Bruce Landsberg, a vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said that the preliminary investgation had found the 13-year-old was driving the truck at the time of the accident. Landsberg also said that the truck’s left front tire, which was a spare tire, had blown out before the crash.
Tyler James (University of the Southwest photo)
The crash is being investigated by the Texas Highway Patrol, with assistance from the NTSB.
The University of the Southwest is a small, private school located just over the Texas state border in New Mexico. The golf teams play in the NAIA. James, 26, according to the school’s athletics website, was in his first year as the men's and women's golf coach.
The tournament was scheduled to conclude on Wednesday but was canceled in the wake of the accident. "We were all shocked to learn of this tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with USW as they grieve this terrible loss," Forrest Allen, Midland College Athletic director, said in a statement.
San Jose State men’s golf coach John Kennaday and TCU women’s coach Angie Ravaioli-Larkin are the presidents of the Golf Coaches Association of America and the Women’s Golf Coaches Association. They released a joint statement on Wednesday:
“We are devastated by the news that took place yesterday evening with the University of the Southwest's men's and women's golf programs. Multiple fatalities have been reported, including first-year head men's and women's coach Tyler James.
"Our coaching community is extremely tight-knit and it is in times like this that we come even closer together. As we learn more details from those involved, we will pass them along.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been established to help raise money to be distributed to the families of the victims. Those wishing to donate can go do so at the link here.