Alcohol containers found in car after fatal Panhandle wreck

Posted Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Empty alcohol containers were found in the wreckage of a Ford Taurus after a collision on a Panhandle highway Monday night that killed five cast or crew members of the musical drama Texas, the Department of Public Safety reported.

A sixth person in the car was reported to be in critical condition Wednesday.

Two of the dead were from Tarrant County, and both were involved in theater in high school and college.

Before the wreck, which occurred about 11:30 p.m. on U.S. 287 north of Dumas, the six occupants of the car had attended an end-of-season party at the Coldwater Ranch, which is owned by a former board member of the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation, Executive Director Kris Miller told the Amarillo Globe-News.

The foundation produces Texas, which draws thousands of people each summer to a natural amphitheater in the Palo Duro Canyon.

Miller, who is also a Texas cast member, told the Amarillo paper that no alcohol was served to minors at the party but that people 21 and older were allowed to bring their own beverages.

“There didn’t seem to be an abundance of alcohol there,” Miller said. Board members stressed the use of designated drivers and people were offered “financial incentives” to be designated drivers, Miller said.

DPS spokesman Christopher Ray said he didn’t know whether crash investigators found beer or liquor bottles.

The Taurus ran a stop sign at the intersection of Farm Road 119 and U.S. 287 and was hit by a 18-wheeler southbound on 287, the DPS reported.

The two Tarrant County men killed were Julian Arredondo, 24, of Haltom City, a 2011 graduate of TCU; and Eric Harrison, 21, a 2010 graduate of Fossil Ridge High School and current student at West Texas A&M University in Canyon.

Also killed were Andrew Duncan of Wichita Falls; the driver, Clinton Diaz of Amarillo; and Amanda Starz of Lutherfield Timonium, Md., all 20. Duncan and Diaz were also students at West Texas A&M.

The 18-wheeler’s load of water dispensing machines came off the trailer after the collision and came to rest on top of the car’s driver side, Ray said Wednesday.

Timothy Johnson, 30, of Houston, the only survivor from the car, remained in critical condition Wednesday, an Amarillo hospital spokeswoman said.

The driver of the 18-wheeler, Theron Arthur McSay, 70, of Fort Collins, Colo., remained hospitalized in stable condition.

Investigators haven’t talked to McSay, Ray said, but talked briefly with Johnson, who was conscious at the scene.

Agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are investigating the source of alcohol and whether it was made available to anyone younger than 21 at the party, Sgt. Charlotte Knox of the Amarillo TABC office told the Amarillo newspaper.

“That’s something we investigate whenever somebody is critically injured or a death occurs,” Knox said.

Alan Nicholson, the vice president of Coldwater Ranch, declined to comment.

“This is a tragedy, and we are grieving with the families,” Nicholson said.

The Tuesday and Wednesday Texas performances were canceled, but shows are scheduled to resume today and continue through Sunday to end the season.

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