Texas Accident Victims Connected by Faith, Passion for Golf – Press Enterprise


HOBBS, NM (AP) – Laci Stone had a special request for her mother. The 18-year-old wanted to get small matching heart tattoos before leaving her Texas hometown and returning to New Mexico to finish her freshman year at the University of the Southwest.

She asked her mother.

And now Chelsi Stone is glad she didn’t back down.

“I am so eternally grateful that God gave me the courage to do it and carry this memory with me always,” Chelsi Stone wrote on her Facebook page.

She is among parents, other family members and friends who are heartbroken and devastated after a fiery accident killed Laci, five of her teammates and a coach as they returned home from a golf tournament in Texas on Tuesday.

Most of the students were freshmen getting their first taste of life away from home at the private Christian university with hundreds of enrollments. Some of them were far from home, coming from Canada, Mexico and Portugal.

Chelsi Stone said she would not wish the pain she was feeling on her worst enemy. She described her daughter as a ray of sunshine and said her family will never be the same.

Stone graduated from Nocona High School in 2021 where she played golf, volleyball and softball. Her high school announced on social media that it would be canceling Wednesday’s softball game and said the community was heartbroken at losing one of their own. Instead, dozens of people gathered in the field to pray.

The other victims were golf coach Tyler James of Hobbs; Junior Karisa Raines of Fort Stockton, Texas; Junior Jackson Zinn of Westminster, Colorado; Freshman Travis Garcia of Pleasanton, Texas; and teammate Mauricio Sanchez from Mexico; and Tiago Sousa from Portugal. The school and authorities have not declassified Sanchez and Sousa’s hometowns.

The two injured students were identified by authorities as Dayton Price of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; and Hayden Underhill of Amherstview, Ontario, Canada.

Authorities identified the occupants of the pickup truck that collided with the team’s van as Henrich Siemens, 38, of Seminole, Texas, and a 13-year-old boy, also from Seminole. Police have not yet released his name.

Authorities said James was taking the students back to New Mexico Tuesday night when the crash happened. Those who knew him said becoming a head coach was his goal and he was looking forward to being there.

“It was his dream job to be a head coach and he lived his dream,” said Ryan Erwin, vice president of student engagement and athletics at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall.

James graduated from ETBU in May with a Masters of Science in Kinesiology. There he was the Graduate Assistant Coach for the golf program.

Erwin said James not only has a passion for coaching but also for mentoring students.

After starting his collegiate career playing golf at Ottawa University in Kansas, he transferred to Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, according to his biography on the University of the Southwest website.

Troy Drummond, Howard Payne University’s head golf coach and assistant athletic director for operations, said James played for Howard Payne for three years and coached the team in his senior year.

“He had a passion for golf, you could tell from the start. He pretty much ate, slept, and drank golf,” Drummond said.

Sousa also had an “immense passion for golf,” said Renata Afonso, the principal of Escola Secundária de Loulé, a high school he attended on Portugal’s south coast.

“He was a very dedicated student who was very involved in social causes,” she said. “Any school would be delighted to have had him as a student.”

Drew Underhill, Hayden’s older brother, said his parents were on a plane to Texas so they could be with his brother. Hayden Underhill went to school on a golf scholarship.

“Hockey was an important part of life for a while, but his real passion is golf,” his brother said. “He loves golf. His favorite is Jordan Spieth. And he always loved watching Jordan, following Jordan.”

Zinn’s pastor Rick Long told KUSA-TV in Denver that the 22-year-old is a loving and kind person who is very close to his parents and two younger sisters and is passionate about helping others. He and his family started a soccer league for children with special needs, the channel reported.

Zinn, who had a 4.0 GPA, would have liked to play in the PGA but also wanted to run a major hotel chain, he said.

“If anyone could put everything into 22 years, Jackson did it,” Long said.

Friends of Raines, who was a biology student, started a fundraising page for her family. They described her as “a beautiful and kind soul who will be deeply missed by all”.

Aside from golf, faith bound teammates and their families together. Social media pages were deluged with a steady stream of prayers and condolences from college golfers, community members and others on Wednesday.

A short drive from campus, local golfers erected a memorial on the course where the team practices. Groundsmen placed flowers, golf balls and a handmade sign with a Christian cross and the initials ETC.

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

Kirkes said he sees the team members almost every day and feels close to them.

“These kids were great kids, and they were great, great members of the community,” Kirkes said. “They were polite and it was just a pleasure to be here.”

He knew that many of the children were from abroad and tried to make it a welcome place for them.

“Pursuing a college career in any athletic field is a great opportunity for kids abroad,” Kirkes said. “We wanted to make them feel at home.”


This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Henrich Siemens’ first name.


Stengle reported from Dallas. Montoya Bryan reported from Albuquerque. Associated Press writer Robert Gilles in Toronto 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 cover undercover topics. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.


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