TEXAS, USA — A 13-year-old was driving the pickup truck that struck a van in West Texas in a fiery collision this week that killed nine people, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said the truck’s left front tire, which was a spare tire, also blew out before impact.
Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Victor Taylor said a 13-year-old driving would be breaking the law. A person must be 14 in Texas to start taking classroom courses for a learner’s license and 15 years old to receive a provisional license to drive with an instructor or licensed adult in the vehicle.
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The pickup truck crossed into the opposite lane on a darkened, two-lane highway before colliding head-on with a van, killing the boy, a 38-year-old man traveling with him, six New Mexico college students, and a golf coach.
The University of the Southwest students, including one from Portugal and one from Mexico, and the coach were returning from a golf tournament when the crash happened Tuesday night. Two Canadian students were hospitalized in critical condition.
The deceased USW students and coach have been identified as:
- Tyler James, 26, from Hobbs, New Mexcio (head coach)
- Maurico Sanchez, 19, from Mexico
- Travis Garcia, 19, from Pleasanton, Texas
- Jackson Zinn, 22, from Westminster, Colorado
- Karissa Raines, 21, from Fort Stockton, Texas
- Laci Stone, 18, from Nocona, Texas
- Tiago Sousa, 18, from Portugal
The National Transportation Safety Board sent 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 (120 kph), though investigators have not yet determined how fast either vehicle was traveling.
The University of the Southwest is a private, Christian college located in Hobbs, New Mexico, near the state’s border with Texas.
A memorial was set up Wednesday at a golf 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.
“This is a terrible accident. As we await additional information from authorities, my prayers are with the community and the loved ones of all those involved,” she said.
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.