(MIDLAND, TX) — A 13-year-old was at the wheel of the pickup truck that swerved in front of a van carrying the University of the Southwest's men's and women's golf teams, killing nine people, including the underage driver, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Six members of the team and the head coach were killed in the crash. Two remain in critical condition at a Texas hospital.
NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg told reporters that the Dodge 2500 Ram pickup truck driven by the teen was traveling northbound near Midland, Texas, on Tuesday night when it crossed into the southbound lane and collided head on with the 17-seat passenger van carrying the golf teams. The truck's left front tire was a spare that failed and caused the vehicle to pull hard left and cross into the opposing lane, according to the NTSB.
In addition to the 13-year-old, whose name was not released, a 38-year-old man, Henrich Siemens, was in the Dodge pickup. Both were killed, as well as the coach, Tyler James, and six golfers in the passenger van.
The players who died were identified as Maurico Sanchez, 19, of Mexico; Travis Garcia, 19, of Pleasanton, Texas; Jackson Zinn, 22, of Westminster, Colorado; Karissa Raines, 21, of Fort Stockton, Texas; Laci Stone, 18, of Nocona, Texas; and Tiago Sousa, 18, of Portugal.
The two passengers in the team van who survived the wreck, Dayton Price,19, of Mississauga, Ontario, and Hayden Underhill, 20, of Amherstview, Ontario, remain hospitalized as of Thursday in Lubbock, Texas, according to the University of the Southwest.
Investigators were able to determine the teen was in the driver's seat based on the size of the remains inside the truck, according to Landsberg.
Landsberg said his team is going through all of the evidence at the scene, including vehicle recorders, but it does appear that the incident was "very clearly a high speed, head-on collision." Both vehicles burst into flames after the crash.
"We have literally thousands of pictures that were taken by the various first responders, and there is no question about the force of impact," he said.
Landsberg added that "quite a number of the bus passengers were not wearing seatbelts," during the incident.
The NTSB will release a preliminary report on its investigation in two to three weeks, Landsberg said.
Ryan Tipton, the provost of the University of the Southwest, provided an update on the two injured students during a news conference Thursday and said the school would be supporting them during their long journey.
"Every day is a game of inches, and every hour is one step closer to another day," he said.
Tipton said most students are off campus for spring break but the school is planning to hold a memorial service in honor of those who died when classes resume.
"We are a family of Mustangs," he said, referring to the school's mascot. "We've run as one, we run together and [when] one of us is hurting, all of us are hurting."