Texas crash latest tragedy for family of young driver, dad

Mar 17, 2022, 9:05 PM | Updated: Mar 19, 2022, 6:12 am
Erik Herring, center left, and Andera Concotelli console each other during a memorial for Jackson Z...

Erik Herring, center left, and Andera Concotelli console each other during a memorial for Jackson Zinn at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Hobbs, New Mexico. Zinn, who worked at the restaurant, was killed with several other student golfers and the coach of University of the Southwest in a crash in Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(AP Photo/John Locher)

HOBBS, N.M. (AP) — Authorities investigating a fiery head-on crash in West Texas don’t know why a 13-year-old boy was driving while his father sat in the passenger seat of a pickup truck that crossed into the oncoming lane and collided with a passenger van, killing nine people.

The young teen who has not been identified died in the crash along with his father, 38-year-old Henrich Siemens, and six members of a New Mexico college golf team and their coach. The cause remains under investigation, though National Transportation Safety Board officials have said the truck’s front tire, a spare, blew out before the crash.

It’s the latest tragedy for the family of the father and son, of Seminole, Texas.

Community members first rallied around Siemens and his wife, Agatha, in October, when a fire that started in the kitchen destroyed the home where they had lived for a decade. Seminole is a rural community of around 7,500 people, some of whom first relocated to the area in the 1970s with other Mennonite families who started farming and ranching operations.

While the couple and their children escaped the fire without injury, Agatha wrote on her Facebook page at the time that they had lost everything, including one of the family pets.

After the crash, Agatha Siemens shared family photos on social media, saying her husband was the love of her life and that she missed her son. She did not return messages seeking comment.

NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg on Thursday revealed the truck was driven by the child.

After the tire blew, the pickup truck crossed into the opposite lane on the darkened, two-lane highway before colliding with the van. Both vehicles burst into flames.

Although it was unclear how fast the two vehicles were traveling, “this was clearly a high-speed collision,” Landsberg said.

The speed limit at the crash site is 75 mph (120 kph), according to the agency.

Landsberg said investigators hoped to retrieve enough information from the vehicles’ recorders, if they survived, to understand what happened. He said many in the van were not wearing seatbelts and at least one was ejected from the vehicle.

It’s not unusual for young teens to drive in that region and other more rural parts of the United States. One must be 14 in Texas to start taking classroom courses for a learner’s license and 15 to receive that provisional license to drive with an instructor or licensed adult in the vehicle.

Investigators have not yet determined why the youth was behind the wheel, Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Steven Blanco said Friday.

The NTSB sent an investigative team to the crash site in Texas’ Andrews County, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of the New Mexico state line.

The University of the Southwest students, including one from Portugal and one from Mexico, and the coach were returning from a golf tournament in Midland, Texas, when the vehicles collided Tuesday night. Two Canadian students were hospitalized in critical condition.

University of the Southwest spokeswoman Maria Duarte declined to comment on the NTSB’s announcement about the young driver, citing the ongoing investigation. The private Christian college is located in Hobbs, New Mexico, near the Texas state line.

The golf teams were traveling in a 2017 Ford Transit van that was towing a box trailer when it collided with the 2007 Dodge 2500 pickup, according to NTSB spokesperson Eric Weiss.

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 Aguascalientes, 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 Algarve, Portugal.

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 Lubbock, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) 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.

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

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

A memorial was set up Wednesday at the golf course near campus where the team practices, with flowers, golf balls and a handmade sign. Counseling and religious services were made available on campus.

About 150 people turned out Thursday evening to remember Jackson Zinn at Texas Roadhouse, a restaurant where he worked and met his girlfriend of five months.

“We met here exactly at this table,” said Maddy Russell, 20, of Hobbs. “He was my heart.”

The mourners released around 100 blue and orange balloons into the cold whipping wind of eastern New Mexico, which soon disappeared into the horizon.

___

Bleed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas, and Snow reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg and Jamie Stengle in Dallas, Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, Rob Gillies in Toronto and Barry Hatton in Lisbon contributed to this report.

___

Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              A golfer visits a makeshift memorial at the Rockwind Community Links Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Hobbs, N.M. The memorial was for student golfers and the coach of University of the Southwest killed in a crash in Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
            
              Paula Smith, vice president for financial services at University of the Southwest in Hobbs, N.M., speaks to the media during a news conference Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Scarborough Memorial Library in Hobbs, N.M.  Several student golfers and the coach of University of the Southwest were killed in a crash in Texas. (Andy Brosig/The Hobbs Daily News-Sun via AP)
            
              University of the Southwest's Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ryan Tipton answers questions during a press conference regarding the USW golf team car wreck, Thursday, March 17, 2022, at the USW Scarborough Memorial Library in Hobbs, NM. (Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP)
            
              University of the Southwest's Vice President for Financial Services Paula Smith, left, answers questions with USW's Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ryan Tipton, right, during a press conference regarding the USW golf team car wreck Thursday, March 17, 2022 at the USW Scarborough Memorial Library in Hobbs, N.M. (Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP)
            
              Erik Herring, center left, and Andera Concotelli console each other during a memorial for Jackson Zinn at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Hobbs, New Mexico. Zinn, who worked at the restaurant, was killed with several other student golfers and the coach of University of the Southwest in a crash in Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
            
              People watch after releasing balloons during a memorial for Jackson Zinn at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Hobbs, N.M.. Zinn, who worked at the restaurant, was killed with several other student golfers and the coach of University of the Southwest in a crash in Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
            
              University of the Southwest golf players, from left, Phillip Lopez, Jonny Flores and Halie Cruz visit the site of a memorial, Thursday, March 17, 2022 at the Rockwind Community Links in Hobbs, N.M., erected for the victims of the USW golf team's vehicle crash. (Odessa American/Odessa American via AP)
            
              A memorial erected in honor of the University of the Southwest golf teams car wreck is seen Thursday, March 17, 2022 at the Rockwind Community Links in Hobbs, N.M. Late Tuesday, the University of the Southwest men's and women's golf teams were involved in a fatal car crash half a mile north of State Highway 115 on Farm-to-Market Road 1788 in Andrews County while on the way back from tournament play in Midland. Nine people were killed in the wreck including six students, one coach, and two in a pickup that collided head-on with the university's van. (Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP)
            
              Bryanna Saiz, right, cries with others during a memorial for Jackson Zinn at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Hobbs, New Mexico. Zinn, who worked at the restaurant, was killed with several other student golfers and the coach of University of the Southwest in a crash in Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
            University of the Southwest's Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ryan Tipton answers questions during a news conference regarding the USW golf team car wreck Thursday, March 17, 2022 at the USW Scarborough Memorial Library in Hobbs, N.M. (Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP) The University of the Southwest hosted a news conference Thursday, March 17, 2022 regarding the USW golf team car wreck at their campus in Hobbs, N.M. Late Tuesday, the University of the Southwest men's and women's golf teams were involved in a fatal car crash half a mile north of State Highway 115 on Farm-to-Market Road 1788 in Andrews County while on the way back from tournament play in Midland. Nine people were killed in the wreck including six students, one coach, and two in a pickup that collided head-on with the university's van. (Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP) A flag flies at half staff at the University of the Southwest, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Hobbs, N.M. Several student golfers and the coach of University of the Southwest were killed in a crash in Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher) 
              Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers look over  the scene of a fatal car wreck  early Wednesday, March 16, 2022 half of a mile north of State Highway 115 on Farm-to-Market Road 1788 in Andrews County, Texas.  A pickup truck crossed the center line of a two-lane road in Andrews County, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of the New Mexico state line on Tuesday evening and crashed into a van carrying members of the University of the Southwest men's and women's golf teams, said Sgt. Steven Blanco of the Texas Department of Public Safety. (Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP)
            
              A damaged pickup truck sits on the side of the road at the scene of a fatal car wreck early Wednesday, March 16, 2022 in Andrews County, Texas.  A pickup truck crossed the center line of a two-lane road in Andrews County, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of the New Mexico state line on Tuesday evening and crashed into a van carrying members of the University of the Southwest men's and women's golf teams, said Sgt. Steven Blanco of the Texas Department of Public Safety. (Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP)
            Emergency responders work the scene of a fatal crash late Tuesday, March 15, 2022 in Andrews County, Texas.   A vehicle carrying members of the University of the Southwest's golf teams collided head-on with a pickup truck in West Texas, killing multiple people, authorities said.  (NewsWest 9 KWES-TV via AP) Emergency responders work the scene of a fatal crash late Tuesday, March 15, 2022 in Andrews County, Texas.   A vehicle carrying members of the University of the Southwest's golf teams collided head-on with a pickup truck in West Texas, killing multiple people, authorities said.  (NewsWest 9 KWES-TV via AP)

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Texas crash latest tragedy for family of young driver, dad