Laci Stone had something special in mind for her mother. Before leaving her Texas homeland and returning to New Mexico to continue her freshman year at the University of the Southwest, the 18-year-old wanted to acquire little matching heart tattoos.
She pleaded with her mum. And Chelsi Stone is now relieved she didn’t back out.
“I’m eternally grateful to God for giving me the courage to go through with it and have this memory with her,” Chelsi Stone stated on her Facebook page.
She is one of the parents, other family members, and friends who have been left saddened and brokenhearted following the death of Laci, five of her teammates, and a coach in a terrible crash on their way home from a golf tournament in Texas on Tuesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sent a 12-member “go team” to the scene of the crash, which included experts in human performance, vehicle and motor carrier characteristics, and accident reconstruction.
The majority of pupils were freshmen experiencing their first taste of life away from home at the private Christian university with hundreds of students. Several of them had travelled from Canada, Mexico, and Portugal.
Chelsi Stone stated that she would not wish her worst enemy the misery she was experiencing. She compared her daughter to a ray of sunshine and declared that her family would never be the same again.
Stone earned her high school diploma in 2021 from Nocona High School, where she participated in golf, volleyball, and softball. Her high school stated on social media that Wednesday’s softball game would be cancelled, stating that the community was heartbroken by the loss of one of its own. Rather than that, dozens gathered on the field to pray.
Golf instructor Tyler James of Hobbs was also killed, as were junior Karisa Raines of Fort Stockton, Texas; junior Jackson Zinn of Westminster, Colorado; freshman Travis Garcia of Pleasanton, Texas; and fellow players Mauricio Sanchez of Mexico and Tiago Sousa of Portugal.
Teams of Texas Crash Golf
Tyler James in his capacity as a graduate assistant coach for the ETBU golf programme in Marshall, Texas, as reported by East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) Athletic Communications.
Dayton Price of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, and Hayden Underhill of Amherstview, Ontario, Canada, were recognised as the two injured students by police.
Heinrich Siemens, 38, of Seminole, Texas, and a 13-year-old child from Seminole were identified as the occupants of the pickup vehicle that crashed with the team’s van. His identity has not yet been released by police.
According to authorities, James was returning the kids to New Mexico on Tuesday night when the crash occurred. According to many who knew him, it had been his ambition to become a head coach, and he was overjoyed to be there.
“That was his dream job, to be a head coach, and he was living it,” said Ryan Erwin, East Texas Baptist University’s vice president for student engagement and athletics.
James earned a master’s of science in kinesiology from ETBU in May. He served as the golf program’s graduate assistant coach throughout his time there.
Erwin stated that James has not simply a passion for coaching, but also for mentoring kids.
According to his biography on the University of the Southwest website, he began his college career playing golf at Ottawa University in Kansas then transferred to Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas.
Troy Drummond, head golf coach and associate athletic director for operations at Howard Payne University, said James played three years and assisted with coaching the team in his last year.
“You could see he was passionate about golf from the outset. He’d eat, sleep, and drink golf for the most part “Drummond explained.
Drew Underhill, Hayden’s older brother, stated that his parents were on their way to Texas to be with him. Hayden Underhill was a golf scholarship student.
“While hockey played a significant role in his life for a time, his genuine passion is golf,” his brother explained. “He is a golf enthusiast. Jordan Spieth is his favourite. And he was constantly on the lookout for Jordan, following Jordan.”
Friends of Raines, a biology student, established a GoFundMe page for her family. They spoke to her as a “lovely and loving spirit who will be terribly missed by all.” As of Thursday morning, the page had raised more than $11,000.
Apart from golf, the teammates and their families were united by their faith. Wednesday, social media platforms were flooded with thoughts and condolences from fellow college golfers, community residents, and others.
Local golfers erected a tribute at the course where the team practises, just a short drive from school. Flowers, golf balls, and a homemade sign with a Christian cross and the initials USW were placed by groundskeepers.
“We have established a memorial. That is the bare minimum we can do for the players and, of course, for coach James “Ben Kirkes, manager of Rockwind Community Links, stated. “This is a trying moment.”
Kirkes stated that he saw the team members practically every day and had a close relationship with them.
“These children were wonderful children, and they were wonderful, wonderful community members,” Kirkes added. “They were courteous and a delight to be around.”
He was aware that many of the children were from other countries and made an effort to make them feel at home.
“Pursuing a collegiate career in any sport is an excellent option for children living abroad,” Kirkes added. “We wanted them to feel at ease.”