Texas crash’s latest tragedy for family of young driver, father – Press Enterprise


HOBBS, NM (AP) — Authorities investigating a fiery head-on collision in West Texas don’t know why a 13-year-old boy was driving while his father was in the passenger seat of a pickup truck that pulled into the oncoming lane and collided with a passenger car, nine people were killed.

The young teenager, 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.

It is the latest tragedy for the family of the father and son from Seminole, Texas.

Parishioners first rallied around Siemens and his wife Agatha in October when a fire that broke out in the kitchen destroyed the house where they had lived for ten years. Seminole is a rural community of approximately 7,500 people, some of whom moved to the area in the 1970s with other Mennonite families who began farming and raising cattle.

While the couple and their children escaped the fire unharmed, Agatha wrote on her Facebook page at the time that they had lost everything, including one of the family’s pets.

After the crash, Agatha Siemens shared family photos on social media, saying her husband is the love of her life and she misses her son. She has not returned messages asking for comment.

National Transportation Safety Board vice chairman Bruce Landsberg announced Thursday that the truck was being driven by the child. He said the truck’s left front tire, which was a spare, blew out before the impact.

The pickup went into the oncoming lane on the darkened, two-lane freeway before colliding with the van. Both vehicles burst into flames.

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

The speed limit at the scene of the accident is 75 mph (120 km/h), according to the agency.

Landsberg said investigators hoped to get enough information from the vehicles’ logs, if they survived, to understand what happened. He said many in the van were not wearing their seat belts and at least one was thrown from the vehicle.

It is not uncommon for young teens to drive in this region and other more rural parts of the United States. In Texas, one must be 14 to begin taking classroom courses for a learner’s license and 15 to obtain this 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 dispatched an investigation team to the crash site in Andrews County, Texas, about 30 miles 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.

According to NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss, the golf teams were traveling in a 2017 Ford Transit van towing a box trailer when it collided with the 2007 Dodge 2500 pickup truck.

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

Canadian students Dayton Price, 19, of Mississauga, Ontario, and Hayden Underhill, 20, of Amherstview, Ontario, were seriously injured on board the van. Both were helicoptered to Lubbock, about 110 miles northeast.

“They are stable and recovering and making more and more progress every day,” University of the Southwest Provost Ryan Tipton said Thursday.

“One of the students is eating chicken soup,” Tipton said, calling her recovery a “game by inch.”

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

A memorial with flowers, golf balls and a handcrafted sign was erected on Wednesday at the golf course near the campus where the team trains. Counseling and worship services were provided on campus.

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

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

Mourners released about 100 blue and orange balloons into the cold, whipping winds of eastern New Mexico that soon disappeared over the horizon.


Bleed was reported from Little Rock, Arkansas, and Snow 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 brings journalists into local newsrooms to cover undercover topics. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.


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