Music students killed in East Texas
Five members of the “Texas” musical drama were killed and another seriously injured in a violent collision with a tractor-trailer Monday night following an end-of-summer cast party near Dumas.
Department of Public Safety officials said Clint Diaz, 20, of Amarillo, was driving with five passengers in a Ford Taurus that ran a stop sign and pulled in front of the southbound truck on U.S. Highway 287. Authorities said the truck struck the passenger side of the Taurus, and the load toppled onto the driver’s side of the Taurus.
The victims killed in the wreck were identified by DPS as Diaz; Andrew Duncan, 20, of Wichita Falls; Amanda Starz, 20, of Timonium, Md.; Julian Arredondo IV, 24, of Haltom City; and Eric Harrison, 21, of Fort Worth.
Injured in the accident were Timothy Johnson, 30, of Portland, Ore., and the tractor-trailer driver, Theron Arthur McSay, 70, of Fort Collins, Colo.
Authorities said Johnson was transported to Northwest Texas Hospital with life-threatening injuries.
DPS officials said alcohol might have been a factor in the accident.
Kris Miller, executive director of the foundation and a “Texas” cast member, said the party was held at Coldwater Ranch, owned by former longtime Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation board of directors member Joe Batson.
“We’ve held the party there for the last 22 years,” said Kris Miller, executive director of the foundation and a “Texas” cast member. “It’s always on the last Monday of the summer.”
Miller, who said he arrived at the party about 6 p.m. Monday, said no alcohol was being served to minors but attendees over the age of 21 were allowed to bring their own beverages.
“There didn’t seem to be an abundance of alcohol there,” Miller said, adding board members stressed the use of designated drivers and people were offered “financial incentives” to be designated drivers.
Former board member Phil Woodall said he would ride a provided bus to the ranch when he used to attend the annual get-together.
Woodall resigned from the board along with several others in 2009.
“There was always some drinking,” Woodall said. “It was just a sort of ‘let-your-hair-down’ kind of thing at the end of the summer.”
Miller said people were enjoying themselves Monday night — swimming, riding horses, shooting skeet — and “nobody seemed out of hand.”
The fatal wreck happened about 11:30 p.m. Monday as the westbound Taurus turned south from Farm-to-Market Road 119 onto 287 north of Dumas and into the path of the southbound 1995 Peterbilt tractor-trailer, DPS said.
DPS said the Taurus went through a stop sign at an intersection, and the tractor-trailer struck it on the passenger side. Both vehicles skidded off the road, and the truck’s load came off the trailer and toppled onto the driver’s side of the Taurus, DPS said.
A justice of the peace pronounced five of the victims dead early Tuesday.
Performances of “Texas” scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday were canceled, but Miller said the rest of the season — which is scheduled to end Saturday — could go on.
“Texas,” which is in its 48th season, is not staged on Monday nights.
“The kids want to try to perform Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and right now, we’re going to go ahead with plans to perform (then),” Miller said Tuesday evening.
He said he had spoken with parents of the accident victims, who agreed with the cast’s decision to continue.
“The decision was up to (the cast),” Miller said. “The board was not going to say one way or another, and neither Dave Yirak (the show’s artistic director) nor I would tell them one way or another. I hope I’m as strong as those kids because I’ll be up there with them.”
Miller said he learned of the accident about 12:45 a.m. Tuesday. He said the cast members were driving back from the annual end-of-summer cast party near Dumas.
“Our ‘Texas’ family is hurting,” Yirak posted on his Facebook page.
“From season 1 to present day, the strength of our show has been the wonderful, creative, talented and loving performers who have graced the Pioneer Amphitheater stage. This love has created a large family that binds us together, and it is this family that we will all reach out to for strength to endure this loss. Bless ‘Texas’ and bless this wonderful family. I love you.”
Former cast member Deana Grissom wrote on the show’s Facebook page that company members become “a family” during the summer-long run of the show.
“Please know that all of your ‘Texas’ family is in our thoughts and prayers as well as the families of the six in the accident,” Grissom wrote.
Three of those killed in the accident were students at West Texas A&M University: Diaz, a junior music theater/dance major; Harrison, a senior theater performance major; and Duncan, a senior accounting major.
In 2001, “Texas” dancer Elise Carlton, an Amarillo native, was killed in a one-vehicle rollover on her way to the show.
If you have lost a family member due to the negligent or other wrongful conduct of another person or entity, please contact Colley & Colley immediately as time is very important. Deadlines are running which could affect your right to recover. Call Colley & Colley, LLP. We can help! https://www.colleylaw.net/Contact or call (903) 257-3473.
Source: Amarillo Globe News "Wreck victims attended cast party before accident". Russell Anglin, Chip Chandler, Jim McBride, Amanda Castro-Crist and Ricky Treon, August 13, 2014