Driving lesson

13-year-old was driving a truck that hit a pickup truck, killing 9 people in Texas, NTSB says

While it’s unclear how fast the two vehicles were traveling, “it was clearly a high-speed collision,” Landsberg said. He said investigators were hoping to retrieve enough information from the vehicle’s recorders to better understand what happened.

You must be 14 years old in Texas to start taking classroom lessons for a learner’s permit and 15 years old to receive this provisional license to drive with an instructor or licensed adult in the vehicle. Department of Public Safety Sgt. Victor Taylor said a 13-year-old driver would be breaking the law.

The van crossed into the opposite lane on a dark two-lane highway before colliding head-on with a pickup truck, killing the boy, a man traveling with him, six New Mexico college students and a golf coach.

It is not uncommon for people in rural areas of the United States to learn to drive when they are young. But the news that a 13-year-old was behind the wheel in the crash in Texas put the focus back on the practice.

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

Golf balls adorned a makeshift memorial at Rockwind Community Links Wednesday in Hobbs, New Mexico. The memorial was dedicated to the student golfers and Southwestern University coach killed in an accident in Texas. John Locher/Associated Press

The NTSB sent a team of investigators to the crash site in Andrews County, Texas, about 50 miles east of the New Mexico state line. Although the area is rural, its roads can often be congested with traffic related to agriculture and oil and gas development.

Southwestern University spokeswoman Maria Duarte declined to comment on the NTSB’s announcement about the young driver, citing the ongoing investigation.

The golf teams were traveling in a 2017 Ford Transit van that was towing a trailer when it collided with the truck, and both vehicles caught fire, according to NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss.

He said the vehicles crashed on a two-lane asphalt highway where the speed limit is 75 mph (120 km/h), although investigators have yet to determine how fast either other vehicle was driving.

The Texas Department of Public Safety identified the deceased as: golf coach Tyler James, 26, of Hobbs, New Mexico; and players Mauricio Sanchez, 19, from 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, from Portugal.

Henrich Siemens, 38, of Seminole County, Texas, and the unidentified 13-year-old boy who were in the 2007 Dodge 2500 pickup were also killed.

Canadian students Dayton Price, 19, of Mississauga, Ont., and Hayden Underhill, 20, of Amherstview, Ont., were seriously injured in the van. Both were airlifted to Lubbock University Medical Center, about 180 kilometers to the northeast.

“They are both stable and recovering and each day is making more and more progress,” Southwestern University Provost Ryan Tipton said of the two injured students on Thursday.

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

University of the Southwest Vice President of Financial Services Paula Smith, left, answered questions from USW Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Ryan Tipton, right, during a news conference regarding Thursday’s USW Golf Team car wreck at the USW Scarborough Memorial Library in Hobbs, New Mexico Eli Hartman/Associated Press

Tipton said university president Quint Thurman visited the students’ parents at the hospital, illustrating the community close to the college with only about 350 students on campus.

Underhill’s brother Drew said their parents, Ken and Wendy, flew to Texas.

“Hockey was a big part of his life for a while, but his real passion is golf,” said Drew Underhill.

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

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

Mourners released about 100 blue and orange balloons into the cold, whipping wind from eastern New Mexico, and they quickly disappeared over the horizon.

The Mexican Golf Federation posted a note of condolence online to Sanchez’s loved ones.

Sousa was from the southern coast of Portugal, where he graduated from high school last summer before heading to college in the United States, said Renata Afonso, principal of the Escola Secundária de Loulé .

“Any school would be thrilled to have had him as a student,” she said.

Team member Jasmin Collum was scheduled to play but decided at the last minute to visit her parents in Houston, her mother said.

“We knew all of these people on board,” Tonya Collum said. “Basically the whole team is gone or in the hospital.”

People watch after releasing balloons 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 along with several other student golfers and the Southwestern University coach in an accident in Texas. John Locher/Associated Press

Southwestern University is a private Christian college located in Hobbs, New Mexico near the border with Texas.

A memorial was erected Wednesday at the course near the campus where the team practices. There were flowers, golf balls and a handmade sign with a cross and the initials USW.

“It’s the least we can do for the players, and of course Coach James,” said Rockwind Community Links Manager Ben Kirkes.

The university said on Twitter that counseling and religious services would be available on campus.

The teams had participated in a golf tournament at Midland College, about 505 kilometers west of Dallas. Midland College canceled Wednesday’s play because of the accident.


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