Officials reported that a 13-year-old was driving a pickup truck that collided with a van carrying members of a New Mexico university’s golf teams, killing nine people in West Texas on Tuesday night.
According to National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg, an early inquiry discovered that the truck had a spare wheel in place of its left front tyre. The truck’s spare tyre appeared to have failed, leading it to swerve in front of the van.
“A 13-year-old child was driving the pickup truck,” Landsberg stated at a press conference on Thursday.
The wheel did not appear to be a “donut” spare, but rather looked like the rest of the tyres. The steel rim on the left front tyre remained undamaged, while the other three tyres were severely damaged.
The vehicle was transporting members of the University of the Southwest men’s and women’s golf teams to a competition.
Six of the student athletes, as well as the coach, were killed in the crash.
The crash also killed the 13-year-old pickup truck driver and a passenger, 38-year-old Henrich Siemens.
Tyler James, 26, Mauricio Sanchez, 19, Travis Garcia, 19, Jackson Zinn, 22, Karisa Raines, 21, Laci Stone, 18, and Tiago Sousa, 18, were identified as the fatally injured coach and team members by the police on Wednesday.
The other two occupants in the van, Dayton Price, 19, and Hayden Underhill, 20, were classified in critical condition. Thursday, Landsberg had no information on their status.
According to Landsberg, the Texas Department of Public Safety determined that the youngster was driving based on the identification of the remains in the driver’s seat following a post-crash fire.
According to Landsberg, the NTSB is an independent entity that will examine the disaster but will not be engaged in any potential criminal charges.
The NTSB is still investigating if the vehicle recorders survived the crash in order to download data on how fast they were driving prior to the disaster. The roadway has a speed restriction of 75 miles per hour.
“It was certainly a high-speed, head-on collision involving two huge cars,” said Landsberg. “There are literally thousands of photographs taken by various first responders, and there is no doubt about the force of hit.”
Several passengers in the van did not appear to be wearing seatbelts at the time of the disaster, and at least one was ejected from the vehicle.
According to Landsberg, the NTSB preliminary report will be available in two to three weeks, but the complete report will not be released for 12 to 18 months.
Motorways have a disproportionately high number of fatalities, with Landsberg estimating that “the equivalent of a Boeing 737” are killed on the country’s highways.
“The carnage on our roadways outnumbers that of any other means of transportation.” In no other mode would we accept 100+ fatalities per day… “As a result, we believe it’s past time for us to take our driving a little more seriously,” he stated.