A 38-year-old Texas man, not his 13-year-old son as initially reported, was driving the pickup truck that crossed into the oncoming lane and collided head-on with a van carrying New Mexico college golfers, killing nine people, investigators said Thursday. The man, Henrich Siemens, also apparently had meth in his system.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said two days after the March 15 collision that its preliminary findings suggested that the 13-year-old was driving the truck. The van was carrying University of the Southwest students and their coach back to New Mexico from a golf tournament in Midland.
On Thursday, the NTSB announced that DNA testing confirmed that the father was driving and that toxicology tests showed the presence of methamphetamine in his blood.
The crash happened at about 8:17 p.m on a two-lane road with a 75 mph speed limit about 9 miles from Andrews, northwest of Midland-Odessa.
Siemens and his son died in the collision along with six men’s and women’s golf team members and their coach, who was driving the van, which was also towing a cargo trailer.
Initially, the NTSB said the truck’s left front tire blew before impact, causing it to cross over the centerline. However, on Thursday, NTSB investigators said they had not found evidence of a loss in tire pressure or any other indication that the tire failed.
The NTSB said the crash is still being investigated to determine the probable cause.
Those killed in the van were coach Tyler James, 26, of Hobbs, New Mexico; and players Mauricio Sanchez, 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.
Two other students aboard the van were seriously injured.
Most of the students were first-year students at the private Christian university, with enrollment numbering in the hundreds. Those who knew Coach James said his goal was to become a head coach, and he loved his job.
For the Siemens family, who lived in Seminole, Texas, it was the second tragedy in a short period. Community members had rallied around Siemens and his wife months earlier when a fire destroyed the home where they had lived for a decade.