Pleasanton High School graduate among 9 killed in West Texas crash involving college golf teams

A Pleasanton High School graduate was among nine people killed in a fiery, head-on collision Tuesday night in West Texas involving college golf teams from New Mexico.

Pleasanton ISD Athletic Director Tab Dumont confirmed to KSAT 12 News that Travis Garcia, a member of the men’s golf team at the University of the Southwest in New Mexico, was among the fatalities in the crash.

“The whole Pleasanton ISD community (is) in shock and grieving for the entire family. Not only was Travis a phenomenal golfer and great kid, he comes from a great family. His mother used to work in the district and Travis was doing great things in college and in life. Our prayers go out to Travis, his family and the entire team at his university,” Dumont said in a statement.

According to Sgt. Steven Blanco of the Texas Department of Public Safety, a pickup truck crossed the center line of a two-lane road in Andrews County, about 30 miles east of the New Mexico state line and crashed into a van carrying members of the University of the Southwest men’s and women’s golf teams.

Six students and a faculty member were killed in the crash along with the driver and a passenger in the pickup truck, Blanco said. Two students were taken in critical condition by helicopter to a hospital in Lubbock, about 110 miles to the northeast.

Golf coach Tyler James also died, according to his mother, June James, adding that she knew little about the circumstances. He coached the men and the women.

“We don’t know what happened. It’s a huge investigation. We don’t have any idea as of yet,” James said during a brief phone interview. “This is kind of a shock.”

Team member Jasmin Collum had been scheduled to play but at the last minute decided instead to visit her parents in Houston, her mother said.

“Otherwise, who knows?” Tonya Collum said. “I told her God has a plan for her and that’s why she’s OK. We knew all those people on board. Basically the whole team is gone or in the hospital.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expressed his sympathy in a statement.

“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 National Transportation Safety Board will send a 12-member “go team” to the crash site, including experts in human performance, vehicle and motor carrier factors and accident reconstruction, agency spokesman Eric Weiss said.

The golf team was traveling in a 2017 Ford Transit van that was towing a box trailer when it collided with a 2007 Dodge pickup truck, Weiss said. Both vehicles caught fire after the collision, he said, calling it a “high-energy event.”

The crash happened on a two-lane asphalt highway where the speed limit is 75 mph (120 kph), though investigators have not yet determined how fast either vehicle was traveling, Weiss said.

The teams were taking part in a golf tournament at Midland College, about 315 miles west of Dallas.

The University of the Southwest is a private, Christian college located in Hobbs, New Mexico, near the state’s border with Texas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.