ANDREWS COUNTY, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- It’s been one year since a deadly bus crash in rural Andrews County that left the Hobbs community, and the families of those killed, reeling.

According to a Department of Public Safety spokesman, the crash happened around 8:17 p.m. on March 15, 2022, about a quarter of a mile north of the intersection of SH 115 and FM 1788. Investigators said the driver of a Dodge 2500 pickup truck, driven by 38-year-old Henrich Siemens, of Seminole, was heading southbound when he, for unknown reasons, veered into the northbound lane, where he struck a Ford transit van, carrying members of the University of the Southwest golf team, head on.

Both vehicles caught fire following the crash. Siemens, his 13-year-old son, and six University of the Southwest students: Mauricio Sanchez, 19, of Mexico, Travis Garcia, 19, of Pleasanton, Texas, Jackson Zinn, 22, of Westminster, Colorado, Karisa Raines, 21, of Fort Stockton, Laci Stone, 18, of Nocona Texas, Tiago Sousa, 18, of Portugal, along with first-year golf coach Tyler James, 26, were killed in the crash. Golfers Hayden Underhill, 20, and Dayton Price, 19, were both taken to Lubbock hospitals with serious injuries.

It’s been one year, and still, so many questions remain. In its initial assessment of the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said it thought Siemens’ 13-year-old son was behind the wheel.

However, in a report last July, the NTSB said a DNA test confirmed the driver was, in fact, the elder Siemens, who was found with traces of methamphetamine in his blood. Investigators also initially attributed the crash to a blown tire, but said in that same report, “To date, the investigation has not found evidence of a sudden or rapid loss of tire pressure or any other indicators of catastrophic failure of the pickup truck’s front left tire. However, all aspects of the crash remain under investigation while the NTSB determines probable cause with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar events.”

In short, the families may never truly know what caused the crash that took the lives of their loved ones. One thing that is certain, however, is that each family is doing its best to heal.

“I think when we got the initial call, we held out hope for a long time that it was a mistake. There was so much confusion and chaos…now we always feel like we are missing a piece,” said Laci’s mom, Chelsi Stone. 

“Our family has gone through just a ton of humps and rocky roads since then. It’s just been an ongoing battle of,  ‘What’s next that we have to do without her? You know, what’s the next phase of you know, how to deal without her?’,” said dad Haydan Stone.

“It’s been hard…so many firsts without her,” said Karisa Raines’ dad, Gary Raines. “Mother’s Day and Father’s Day…Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her (twin) brother got married and she wasn’t there…I count it a good day if I cry less than three times.”

The families said the support they’ve received this year has helped made healing possible. 

“When we have total strangers reach out and want to talk to us about our kid…it’s very special and it keeps us going,” Chelsi said. 

“The support…everyone who showed up, just to see the good, it’s been incredible,” Haydan said.

“We’ve had an outpouring of support and love. The college has taken care of us in many ways…we’ve found a new family in the other parents who lost their children, all those families have come together,” Gary said. 

The group, along with the mother of the late coach and the surviving members of the golf team, meet once a month via zoom to talk and share memories.

About Laci Stone:

Laci was a multi-sport athlete and prom queen who loved to sing and dance. 

“She was such a bright light,” said Chelsi.

Her parents said she started playing golf regularly after COVID-19 closed schools across the country in spring of 2020 and decided to play golf for USW as a way to “spread her wings”.

“It was great to see Laci in her element, doing what she loved to do. To see a group of kids from all over the world gather together…they made their own little group and it was fantastic. To see that group, do their thing on the golf course, it was fun to watch,” Haydan said. 

About Karisa Raines:

Karisa was diagnosed as legally blind when she was four years old. In seventh grade, Karisa’s father bought a set of clubs for her twin brother and Karisa wanted a set too.

“She asked, ‘Where are my clubs?’, and I thought to myself, ‘You’re blind, you can’t see that ball’…but I bought her the clubs and, there was something in her, when she set out to do something, she accomplished it. There were misses and mistakes…but I’ll never forget the first time she hit the ball,” Gary said. 

Karisa used golf to accomplish several goals: to spread the word of God, as a way to love on her friends, and as a way to pay for her education. Karisa was also a faithful volunteer at the Lila Smith Women’s Shelter in Fort Stockton. Now, her family is planning a golf tournament in June- funds from the tournament will be split among a scholarship for another golf student, as well as help continue the good work of the local shelter where Karisa volunteered.