What we know about the people killed in New Mexico college golf team crash

What we know about the people killed in New Mexico college golf team crash

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Six golfers and a coach from a New Mexico university were killed Tuesday when a pickup swerved head-on into their lane and hit the van they were traveling in from a tournament in West Texas.

Two of the University of the Southwest students survived and were in critical condition after being flown to a Lubbock hospital.

The students who were killed were 18 to 22 years old and from Portugal, Mexico, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which identified them.

A 38-year-old man, Henrich Siemens, and a 13-year-old boy, who were in the pickup, were also killed. The National Transportation Safety Board revealed Thursday that the 13-year-old, who has not been identified, was driving the truck.

“The USW campus community is shocked and saddened today as we mourn the loss of members of our university family,” the private Christian school near the Texas state line said in a statement.

Here’s what we know about the victims:

Tyler James, 26, was in his first season leading the men’s and women’s golf program at the University of the Southwest. James had previously coached and recruited at other schools, including East Texas Baptist University, where he helped turn the golf teams into top competitors, according to a school biography.

James graduated from ETBU in May with a master’s of science in kinesiology. While there, he had been the graduate assistant coach for the golf program.

His “dream job,” said Ryan Erwin, vice president for student engagement and athletics at ETBU, was to be a head coach “and he was living out his dream.”

After beginning his college 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.

“He had a passion for golf, you could tell that from the very start. He’d pretty much eat, sleep and drink golf,” said Troy Drummond, Howard Payne University’s head golf coach and associate athletic director for operations.

Walt Williams, the golf coach at Midland College, described James’ death as “very tragic.”

“He was a wonderful young man and was already building a nice program at USW,” Williams said in a statement.

Laci Stone, 18, was “an absolute ray of sunshine during this short time on earth,” her mother, Chelsi, wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

“We will never be the same after this and we just don’t understand how this happened to our amazing, beautiful, smart, joyful girl,” Chelsi Stone wrote.

She added that Laci had convinced her recently to get matching tattoos, and she was “so forever grateful that God gave me the courage to go through with it and always have this memory with her.”

“If you know Laci at all you know she is probably having the biggest karaoke party she can and singing Whitney at the top of her lungs,” the mom added. She posted a single picture of her and Laci showing off their matching ink — small red hearts on the insides of their left arms.

Laci was recalled by her high school golf coach, Colby Schniederjan, as one of his favorite kids — someone who was hardworking and optimistic, with a great smile that could light up the room.

Laci Stone with high school coach Heather Nobile.
Laci Stone with high school coach Heather Nobile.Courtesy Heather Nobile

“She joked and sang and lived life to the fullest, and it’s going to be really hard not to have her around anymore,” he said.

Schniederjan, who coached Stone for her sophomore, junior and senior years at Nocona High School, said the tight-knit community a couple hours northwest of Dallas was “devastated” by her death.

Stone, a freshman, was majoring in global business management and wanted to be a “known business owner,” according to her roster bio. She said her favorite golf memories were made while riding in the van with her team.

Travis Garcia, 19, was a freshman from Pleasanton, Texas, studying criminal justice with hopes of working for the Secret Service someday, according to an athlete profile on the university’s website.

In a statement, Tab Dumont, the athletic director of the Pleasanton Independent School District, said the community was in shock. He recalled Garcia as a “phenomenal golfer and great kid” from a great family.

“The thing about Travis was he worked hard and everyone saw that and it made everyone around him work just as hard as he did,” Pleasanton golf coach Mike Guerra told the San Antonio Express-News. “Travis was a main reason why we qualified for the state tournament for the first time in the school’s history last year.”

Losing Garcia, Guerra told the newspaper, “hit me like I lost my son.”

Jackson Zinn, 22, was a junior from Colorado who was majoring in hospital management and minoring in sports management, according to his university bio.

Jackson Zinn.
Jackson Zinn.Courtesy Zinn Family

A family friend, Heather Simms Schichtel, said he also taught special needs children with a soccer league in the city of Westminster.

“To know Jackson was to know his sweet nature, his piercing blue eyes, quick wit and dimples you swear could wink,” she said in a Facebook post. “He loved his family, loved golf and was true to his faith.”

“Devastated does not do justice,” she said. 

Family pastor Pastor Rick Long told NBC affiliate KUSA of Denver that Zinn was “an accomplished student.”

“He had a 4.0 this year. He was an amazing golfer who I believed had an opportunity to go all the way and play at the very highest level,” Long said.

One of Zinn’s two sisters told Long that she was looking forward to growing up with her brother by her side.

“She said, ‘I couldn’t wait for us to be friends as adults and really enjoy this next season in our lives, and now that is not going to happen,’” Long said. 

Karisa Raines, 21, was a junior from Fort Stockton, Texas, who was studying biology and was on track to graduate a year early, her father, Gary Raines, told NBC’s “TODAY” show.

She had planned to return to school for a master’s degree in forensic science, he said.

Karisa Raines.
Karisa Raines.Courtesy Sandy Raines

“We keep thinking once in a while we’re going to wake up from this terrible nightmare,” he said. “But it’s not happening. This is something that happens to other people. But right now we are the other people.”

Karisa is survived by three siblings, including a twin brother, and three step-siblings, he said.

Mauricio Sanchez, 19, was a freshman, according to a student profile.

According to the Mexican Golf Federation, he played for both the University of the Southwest and the Pulgas Pandas Golf Club.

“We extend our deepest condolences to family and friends,” the federation said.

Tiago Sousa, 18, was a freshman at the university, the school said on its athletics page.

In his bio on College Sports America, Sousa described himself as “committed, hard-working, honest, confident” and a “fighter.”

“My ultimate dream is … to win a major championship! For this goal I am willing to give everything as this has been my dream since I started playing,” Sousa wrote. “I will be working hard on the golf course as well as in the classroom so that all my dreams become a reality!”

Dayton Price, 19, and Hayden Underhill, 20, both of Ontario, Canada, were in critical condition.

University of the Southwest Provost Ryan Tipton said Thursday that school President Quint Thurman had traveled to Lubbock to be with their families at the hospital.

The two students are “making steady progress,” Tipton said. “One is eating chicken soup.”

“They are both stable and recovering and everyday making more and more progress,” he said.

The tight-knit campus, which Tipton described as a family, was reeling after the loss of their classmates and the coach.

He said many students are on spring break, and eager to get back to campus to support one another. A memorial will be held next week, Tipton said.

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