13-Year-Old Was Driving Truck in Texas Crash That Killed 9, Including New Mexico College Golfers, Coach: NTSB

No one under 14 can begin courses for a driver's learner's license in Texas, and no one under 15 can receive a learner's license, which allows a motorist to drive with an instructor or licensed adult in the vehicle. 

A 13-year-old was driving the pickup truck that collided with a van in Texas on Tuesday in a crash that killed nine people, including six members of a college golf team and their coach, as well as the teen and a man in the truck, officials said Thursday.

Investigators have so far determined that the truck's front left tire, which was a spare wheel, blew out, which may have caused the truck to swerve in front of the van, National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg told reporters at a press conference. The pickup truck crossed into the opposite lane of the two-lane highway and collided head-on with the van, officials said.

The left front tire appeared similar to the rest of the tires and did not appear to be an emergency-use "doughnut" spare, authorities said. That wheel's steel rim remained intact, while the three other tires on the vehicle were significantly damaged.

It wasn't clear at what speeds the two vehicles were traveling when they collided on the dark road, but the speed limit on the highway is 75 mph. "It was very clearly a high-speed, head-on collision between two heavy vehicles," Landsberg said. 

Members of the New Mexico-based University of the Southwest men’s and women’s golf teams were traveling for a tournament in the van when it was hit by the pickup truck. 

Coach Tyler James, 26, who was driving the van, was killed in the crash, officials said. Team members Mauricio Sanchez, 19; Travis Garcia, 19; Jackson Zinn, 22; Karisa Raines, 21; Laci Stone, 18; and Tiago Sousa, 18, were also killed, the Texas Department of Public Safety said. 

Raines had just turned 21 and was slated to graduate in May, her parents told Inside Edition. She planned to return for one more year of schooling to get her masters in forensics. 

"She had everything going for her. And for her to have it cut short is unbelievable," her mother, Sandy Raines, told Inside Edition. 

They said they texted their daughter just minutes after the crash, not realizing what had occurred. 

"Every night there is a text that goes back and forth between the three of us. It's, 'Good night, I love you, happy dreams.' And the accident occurred like at 8:17, 8:19, something like that. And about five minutes later, Sandy sent that text to her," her father, Gary Raines, told Inside Edition. He does not believe his daughter ever got to read the text message. 

The golf team was headed back to school when the crash occurred. 

The two other people in the van, Dayton Price, 19, and Hayden Underhill, 20, survived the crash and were rushed to a hospital, where they were listed in critical condition, authorities said.

"They are both stable and recovering and every day making more and more progress," University of the Southwest Provost Ryan Tipton told ESPN Thursday.

The Texas Department of Public Safety determined that the 13-year-old child was driving the pickup truck based on the identification of the remains in the driver seat that was conducted after a post-crash fire, Landsberg said. The passenger of the pickup truck was identified by NBC News 38-year-old Henrich Siemens.

No one under 14 can begin courses for a driver's learner's license in Texas, and no one under 15 can receive a learner's license, which allows a motorist to drive with an instructor or licensed adult in the vehicle. 

The NTSB is expected to release its preliminary report on the crash in two to three weeks. A final report will not be released for 12 to 18 months. 

A makeshift memorial was on created on the University of the Southwest's campus in the wake of the crash, ESPN reported. Flowers, golf balls and a handmade sign with a cross and the initials USW adorned the memorial.

"It's the very least we could to for the players, and of course Coach James," Rockwind Community Links manager Ben Kirkes told the outlet. "These kids were great kids and they were great, great community members."

Sandy and Gary Raines echoed Kirkes' sentiments, saying of their daughter that she put her all into everything she did. 

"She was loving, caring," Gary Raines said. "Tried to excel in everything she did. She was a good leader, but more importantly, I think she was a good teammate."

Related Stories