Students From All Over Died Together Pursuing Their Passion

University of the Southwest community, family remember golfers, coach after devastating accident
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 17, 2022 8:40 AM CDT
After Fatal Texas Crash, a Memorial of Golf Balls
The entrance to the University of the Southwest as seen on Wednesday in Hobbs, NM.   (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Laci Stone had a special request for her mom. The 18-year-old wanted to get tiny matching heart tattoos before leaving her Texas hometown and returning to New Mexico to finish out her freshman year at the University of the Southwest. She begged her mother, and now Chelsi Stone is glad she didn't chicken out. "I'm so forever grateful that God gave me the courage to go through with it and always have this memory with her," Chelsi Stone wrote on her Facebook page, adding she wouldn't wish the pain she was feeling on her worst enemy and describing her daughter as a ray of sunshine. She's among the parents, other family members, and friends who've been left devastated after a fiery crash killed Laci, five of her teammates, and a coach while they were returning home Tuesday night from a golf tournament in Texas, per the AP.

Most of the students were freshmen who were getting their first taste of life away from home at the private Christian university. Some of them were far from home, having come from Canada, Mexico, and Portugal. The other victims included golf coach Tyler James of Hobbs, NM; junior Karisa Raines of Fort Stockton, Texas; junior Jackson Zinn of Westminster, Colo.; freshman Travis Garcia of Pleasanton, Texas; and fellow players Mauricio Sanchez of Mexico and Tiago Sousa of Portugal. Two injured students were identified by authorities as Dayton Price of Mississauga, in Ont., Canada, and Hayden Underhill of Amherstview, also in Ont., Canada. Authorities identified the deceased occupants of the pickup truck that collided with the team's van as Heinrich Siemens, 38, of Seminole, Texas, and a 13-year-old boy who also was from Seminole. Police have yet to release his name.

"He had a passion for golf, you could tell that from the very start," Troy Drummond, Howard Payne University's head golf coach, says of James, who played for three years there and helped coach the team his last year. "He'd pretty much eat, sleep, and drink golf." Aside from golf, what tied the teammates and their families together was their faith. Social media pages were inundated Wednesday with a steady stream of prayers and condolences from fellow college golfers, community members, and others. A short drive from the campus, local golfers set up a memorial, including flowers and golf balls, at the course where the team practices. "It's the very least we could [do] for the players, and of course coach James," says Rockwind Community Links Manager Ben Kirkes. "These kids were great kids and they were great, great community members."

(More car crash stories.)

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