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Collision kills College golf coach and students in Texas

HOBBS, N.M. (AP) — Authorities are trying to determine why a pickup truck crossed into the opposite lane on a darkened, two-lane West Texas highway before colliding head-on with a van, killing nine people including six New Mexico college students and a golf coach, as well as a 13-year-old boy.

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The University of the Southwest students, including one from Portugal and one from Mexico, and the coach were returning from a golf tournament. Also killed in Tuesday evening’s fiery crash was a man in the pickup with the boy. Two Canadian students were hospitalized in critical condition.

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending an investigative team to the crash site in Texas’ Andrews County, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) 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.

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

Also killed were Henrich Siemens, 38, of Seminole County, Texas, and an unidentified 13-year-old boy who were in the 2007 Dodge 2500 pickup. Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Steven Blanco said Thursday that investigators have not yet confirmed who was driving either vehicle because of the severity of the crash and the fire that occurred afterward.

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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 the University Medical Center in 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 of the two injured students.

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

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

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New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said on Facebook that she is “deeply saddened” by the loss of life.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also expressed sympathy.

The teams had been taking part in a golf tournament at Midland College, about 315 miles (505 kilometers) west of Dallas.

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

Midland College canceled Wednesday’s play because of the crash. Eleven schools had been scheduled to participate.

9 dead in crash involving U. of the Southwest golf teams  The Associated Press – en Español

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By Cleo

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