Golf Team Fatal Collision Brings Roadway Safety to Foreground


Courtesy photo The Santa Fe New Mexican

The head-on collision in west Texas took the lives of nine persons, including that of a 2021 Pleasanton High School graduate.

Autumn Copeland, Staff Writer

Six members of the University of the Southwest’s golf team and their coach died due to a fiery head-on collision that occurred on March 15 in west Texas. A van transporting the university’s team was struck by a pickup truck in Andrews County in west Texas, as the team traveled to a golf competition. The two passengers in the truck also died.

Bruce Landsberg, Vice Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the truck had a spare wheel in place of its front left tire which seemed to have failed, causing the truck to swerve in front of the van.

The truck drove into the northbound land and struck the Ford passenger van head-on and both vehicles burst into flames, NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss.

The 2007 Dodge 2500 pickup’s passengers, 38-year-old Henrich Siemens, and a 13-year-old child were both killed in the accident. The Texas Department of Public Safety determined the child was driving based on the size of the remains that were in the driver’s seat.

According to The Texas Department of Public Safety reports, the 2017 Ford Transit van that the golf teams were traveling in was towing a box trailer.

DPS identified the deceased as golf coach Tyler James, 26, Mauricio Sanchez, 19, Jackson Zinn, 22, Karisa Raines, 21, Laci Stone, 18, Tiago Sousa, 18, and Travis Garcia, 19, who was from the neighboring community of Pleasanton.

Golf team members Dayton Price, 19, and Hayden Underhill, 20, were airlifted to a Lubbock hospital where they were listed in critical condition. Several passengers of the van were not wearing their seatbelts during the collision which resulted in one person being ejected from the vehicle.

“It was very clearly a high-speed, head-on collision between two heavy vehicles,” Landsberg said. “We have literally thousands of pictures that were taken by the various first responders, and there is no question about the force of impact.”

NTSB investigators are still looking into how fast the vehicles were going prior to the accident. The highway’s speed limit is 75 mph. 

In Texas, the average number of motor vehicle traffic fatalities is more than 3,000 per year, and more than 38,000 lives are lost every year due to crashes on U.S. roadways, the Association for Safe International Road Travel website states.  The number of deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents can be significantly reduced by ensuring all passengers wear seatbelts, avoiding distractions in the car, paying attention to the road and to other drivers, and more importantly– not allowing unlicensed drivers to conduct vehicles on roadways.

Travis Garcia, a 2021 graduate of Pleasanton High School died alongside his golf coach and six teammates in a head-on collision in west Texas this March. Photo: The Pleasanton Express

Locally, the news of the fatal crash hits close to home, as Garcia was a 2021 graduate of Pleasanton High School- a little more than 30 miles from Devine, and families from both communities tend to know each other. Some DHS golf players have even played alongside him.

Garcia led his varsity team to state his senior year, a feat the Eagles had not accomplished before. This was Garcia’s first year attending the University of the Southwest, a small, close-knit Christian university in Hobbs, New Mexico.

“As a member of the DHS golf team, this was very sad news to hear,” junior Raynee Allen said. “The bus rides are one of my favorite parts of traveling with the team.” 

“We get into cars and don’t even think about the possibilities of what could happen to us,” junior Harper Parson said. “It really makes you think about the ‘what ifs’.”