THE 13-year-old boy who was driving the pickup truck that struck a van in West Texas, resulting in a crash that killed nine people has been identified.
Ricky Siemens, 13, and his father Heinrich Siemens, 38, were both killed along with six college athletes and their coach.
The students were part of the University of the Southwest golf team.
Head coach Tyler James and team member Laci Stone were both killed in the crash, according to reports.
The other students killed were Mauricio Sanchez, Travis Garcia, Jackson Zinn, Karisa Raines and Tiago Sousa.
Dayton Price and Hayden Underhill were listed in critical condition.
According to officials, it was determined that the 13-year-old boy was the one driving the Ford F-150 at the time of the crash.
In Texas, a person must 14 to start taking classroom courses for a learner’s license and 15 to receive a provisional license to drive with an instructor or licensed adult in the vehicle.
Department of Public Safety Sgt. Victor Taylor said a 13-year-old driving would be breaking the law.
The truck’s left front tire, which was a spare tire, blew out before impact, National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said.
Although it was unclear how fast the two vehicles were traveling, “this was clearly a high-speed collision,” Landsberg said.
The horror smash happened on Highway 115 in Midland, Texas, just after 8pm local time on Tuesday.
The University of the Southwest, a Christian college based in New Mexico, confirmed victims included members of the university’s men’s and women’s golf teams.
The teams were on their way back from a golf tournament in West Texas.
University president Quint Thurman confirmed that head coach Tyler James had been killed.
He said: “We are still learning the details about the accident but we are devastated and deeply saddened to learn about the loss of our students’ lives and their coach.”
James reportedly entered his first season as the head coach of the men’s and women’s golf program, according to an online biography.
The school will provide updates on social media as they become available.
Laci’s death was confirmed by her mother on social media, according to News Channel 6.
Nocona ISD Athletics also named the student as it canceled its games as a sign of respect.
“Right now our community is heartbroken over the tragic loss of one of our own,” it wrote on Facebook.
‘Please keep the family of Laci Stone in your prayers!”
Thurman said two students survived and have been airlifted to a hospital in Lubbock.
When asked by NBC if the two airlifted were the only two to survive in the van, Thurman said: “As far as I know, yes.”
The students were later revealed to be Price and Underhill, who are in critical condition.
Thurman said the vehicle was a 12-passenger van driven by the coach and speculated that he thinks eight students may have been onboard.
Sgt. Steve Blanco, of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told NBC: “It’s a very tragic scene.”
He said that both vehicles had suffered “heavy damage.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a statement in tribute to the victims on Wednesday.
“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.
“The Texas Department of Public Safety is working closely with local officials to investigate this accident, and we offer our full support to the University of the Southwest and the state of New Mexico.
“I ask Texans to join Cecilia and me in praying for the families of those whose lives were lost and for the recovery of two critically injured students,” he added.
Investigations into the crash remain ongoing.
Heinrich was a father of five and was part of the Mennonite church along with his family.
The boy’s mother, Agatha Siemens, posted a tribute to her son on Facebook with a photo of the boy.
“I miss you so much,” she wrote over the photo, with a song from Casting Crowns playing in the background.
“What I’d give for one more day with you,” the song goes.
Pictures of her husband Heinrich, who is seen hugging her from behind as they both smile into the camera, were also posted.
“Love of my life”, “I love you so much” and “My Best Friend” are written across the photo.
Funeral services are being planned at the Mennonite Evangelical Church in Seminole, Texas, where the family resides from.
Family members and friends who knew the six athletes killed in the crash remembered them as “great kids and community members” as the tributes continue to flood in.
“We are praying so much for the families of all those other kids,” said Gray Raines, whose daughter Karisa was killed.
“Right now we just keep thinking we’re gonna wake up from this terrible nightmare. But it’s not happening.”
Sandy, Karisa’s mom, said in an interview with the Today show on Thursday: “Karisa was my baby. I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.”
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