Algarvian Tiago Sousa was 18 years old
Absolute tragedy has claimed the life of Portuguese golfing prodigy Tiago Sousa, 18, along with six fellow university golf stars and their coach in Texas, United States.
The van the group was travelling in was hit by a pick-up driven by a 13-year-old child.
Even under US law, the child, who also died in the collision, was well under the age to even begin driving lessons. (Contrary to practice in Europe, American teens can begin the classroom portion of drivers education – ie theory – when they are 14, but they must be 15 to qualify for a learner’s permit).
In other words, this was a heartache for so many families that should never have been allowed to happen.
The child was in the company of a man identified as 38-year-old Henrich Siemens. Siemens also died. A subsequent autopsy showed he had meth (an addictive synthetic stimulant) in his system and in his blood.
According to US television, the Dodge pickup was being driven with a ‘spare’ front tyre in place.
What seems to have happened is the ‘spare’ burst, sending the pickup into a tailspin, causing it to cross the ‘center line of the highway’ and crash into the van.
Tiago Sousa was a sports student at University of the Southwest, and part of the institution’s men’s golf team.
He and teammates, including members of the women’s team, were returning from a competition. Two of the young passengers escaped with serious injuries, and are said to be recovering in hospital.
Reports suggest a number may not have been wearing seatbelts. Be that as it may, the collision caused “an extensive fire”, so whether or not victims were wearing seatbelts may have made very little difference.
Miguel Franco de Sousa, president of the Portuguese Golf Federation has lamented the tragedy in a statement, saying what a privilege it was to have competed with Tiago Sousa at the 2020 national championships at Porto Golf Club.
He was a young man with a lot of talent, but “above all with a lovely personality and impeccable behaviour, on and off the course”.
Miguel Franco de Sousa sent the federation’s sincere condolences to the young player’s family and friends, while there will be a minute’s silence held in Tiago Sousa’s memory at every golf competition in the coming week.
Back in the US, the horror of it all is still continuing. There will be a forensic report on the incident, which will take anything up to a year; there may be legal (criminal) consequences as a result of the fact that a 13 year old was even out driving in what was a late hour last Tuesday night.
One report in the States has cited Renata Afonso, head teacher at Loulé Escola Secundária, where Tiago was a former pupil.
She told APnews: “Any school would be delighted to have had him as a student.”
Correio da Manhã today explains that Tiago began playing golf for the Clube de Golfe de Vilamoura, and at the age of 12 became an ‘athlete’ for Quinta do Lago’s ‘Clube Desportiva e Cultural’.
He was a scholarship student at Southwest, which is based in Hobbs, New Mexico.