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Lawsuit filed against University of the Southwest regarding 2022 bus crash

A wrongful death claim has been made against USW. Negligence by the university is being questioned in regard to driving rules as family seeks accountability.

HOBBS, N.M. — In March of 2022, a pickup truck veered across the center stripe on Highway 1788 and struck a van carrying the University of the Southwest golf team, killing both passengers of the truck and seven out of nine passengers in the van – six players and the coach who was driving. 

About 13 months later, a lawsuit has been filed by some of the victims’ families. 

The lawsuit is in regard to a wrongful death claim against the University of the Southwest, or USW. 

Mauricio Sanchez Lopez and Travis Garcia were two members of the school's golf team who died in the crash, and after speaking with the attorney representing Lopez, it is clear that family’s goal is to see the university held accountable. 

“What they really want to accomplish with this is to hold the university accountable, and to have rules and regulations and policies and procedures changed so that no other families have to go through this again," said James Hada, an attorney at Sico, Hoelscher, Harris LLP representing Lopez. 

As a case is made against USW for the fatal highway collision, the negligence of USW has been questioned when it comes to federal motor carrier safety regulations. 

The van was towing a trailer that would give it a gross vehicle weight rating exceeding 10,001 pounds -- heavy enough to qualify it as a motor carrier -- a status that would make it a commercial vehicle and create rules and regulations for the university to follow. 

“The driver had certain hours of responsibility, the school had the responsibility to ensure the driver was properly trained, and qualified, and had his commercial driver’s license, and drug tested, and the whole litany of rules and regulations," said Hada. 

Hada mentioned that it appears USW was unaware of that reality and didn’t follow it. 

Also a part of this case is the belief that USW had a policy in place that had the team traveling late at night. 

“We believe that putting them on the road late at night in a two-lane highway with a 75 mile-an-hour speed limit, West Texas, dark at night, it put them in a…potentially dangerous position and [in] this case it was catastrophic.” 

Due to legal constraints, USW was only able to provide a statement that read, in part, "these allegations, along with the other allegations contained in the lawsuit, are allegations which USW is taking seriously," said Justin Robbs, an attorney for the University of the Southwest. "Due to the pending litigation, USW cannot comment on any specific allegation or position." 

USW's response to the lawsuit includes demanding a trial by jury to the fullest extent of the law as well as 29 affirmative defenses. 

NewsWest 9 will provide updates on this lawsuit if new information becomes available. 

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