“It’s a very tragic scene. Very, very tragic,” a law enforcement official said.
The head coach and six members of the University of the Southwest men’s and women’s golf teams were among nine people killed in a head-on vehicle crash in Texas, authorities said.
The crash occurred Tuesday night near Midland, Texas, and only two people aboard the college team’s van survived, according to a statement from the University of the Southwest in Hobbs, New Mexico.
The college confirmed that Tyler James, the head coach of both the men’s and women’s golf teams, was among those killed. The coach and his teams were returning home from a tournament in Midland when the crash occurred, according to the school’s statement.
“The USW campus community is shocked and saddened today as we mourn the loss of members of our university family,” school officials said in the statement to ABC affiliate station KMID in Midland.
The names of the students killed were not immediately released.
Two passengers in the team van who survived the wreck were in critical condition Wednesday at a hospital in Lubbock, Texas, the school’s statement said.
“We would ask for prayers for their recovery and for comfort and strength for all of families and friends and students of those whose lives have been lost,” school officials said in the statement.
Sgt. Steven Blanco of the Texas Department of Public Safety said the crash happened around 8:17 p.m. Tuesday on a two-lane road about nine miles east of Andrews, Texas, when the 17-seat passenger van carrying the golf teams collided with a pickup truck.
Two people in the pickup truck were killed, authorities said.
A preliminary investigation indicates that the driver of the southbound pickup truck for unknown reasons veered into the northbound lanes, colliding with the van, the Department of Public Safety said Wednesday. The agency said both vehicles caught fire following the crash.
Blanco said the cause of the crash remains under investigation by the Texas Highway Patrol’s West Texas Region.
The National Transportation Safety Board announced Wednesday afternoon that it has sent to Texas an 11-member team, including accident reconstruction experts, to conduct an investigation of the crash in conjunction with the highway patrol.
NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss at a news conference said the speed limit in the area of the crash is 75 mph. Weiss said determining the speed of the vehicles when the collision occurred will be part of the investigation.
“It’s a very tragic scene. Very very tragic,” said Blanco, describing the crash when officers first arrived.
University officials confirmed that James was driving the vehicle when the collision happened.
James was in his first year as head coach of both the women’s and men’s golf teams, school officials said.
School officials said they were working Wednesday to notify the families of all those involved in the crash and to provide counseling and religious services to all students, faculty and staff on campus.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement Wednesday asking Texans to join in praying for the families of those whose lives were lost and for the recovery of two critically injured students.
“We grieve with the loved ones of the individuals whose lives were horrifically taken too soon in this fatal vehicle crash near Andrews last night,” Abbott said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism