HCSO: 3 killed in wrong-way crash, including 2 Texas A&M Corps of Cadets

March 4, 2013 3:28:46 AM PST
Two Texas A&M University Corps of Cadet freshmen and another woman were killed early Sunday in a wrong-way crash in northwest Harris County that police say may have been alcohol-related.

It happened just after 3:30am in the 39300 block of Highway 290 between Kickapoo and Binford.

Charred cars were all that remained at the scene Sunday morning as Harris County Sheriff's Office deputies began their investigation.

Investigators say a woman in a white Ford Mustang, identified as 21-year-old Katie Thomas of Deer Park, was driving east in the westbound lanes when she struck a Ford Explorer head-on. The SUV burst into flames, officials said.

Thomas was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to HCSO, three freshmen in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets were in the SUV. The driver and the backseat passenger were trapped by the flames and died, officials said.

The driver was identified as 18-year-old Amy Pacheco and the back seat passenger as 18-year-old Miguel Hernandez. Both were from Houston.

Deputies say Hernandez was sleeping across the two seats and wasn't wearing a seatbelt.

A passer-by helped get the front seat passenger, 18-year-old Francisco Campos, out of the SUV. He was taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital and is said to be stable. Officials say he doesn't recall the crash, and all he remembers is being pulled from the vehicle.

Campos is a landscape architecture major and is also from Houston.

Corps Commander Eric Gil said the cadets had been in Houston to help judge a Houston Independent School District contest and were driving back to College Station for an early Sunday morning service project.

Unfortunately, they only made it as far as the Harris County line.

Sunday night, the Texas A&M campus and the victims' family and friends in the Houston area were in mourning over the tragic loss of two young lives.

"We're reeling right now and coming together," Gil, a senior, said. "We'll get through this. The Aggie family is strong."

Miguel was a general studies major. Pacheco was a construction science major and had been a Jones Scholar, a four-year need and merit scholarship program that covers up to $16,000 of college costs for Houston-area high school graduates.

"We in the Corps of Cadets and at Texas A&M University, are in mourning over the loss of two of our cadets in a tragic car accident early this morning," Brigadier General Joe E. Ramirez, Jr., commandant of the Corps of Cadets, said. "We offer our sincerest condolences, thoughts and prayers to their family and friends and ask everyone to respect these families and our cadets as we mourn during these trying times."

Authorities believe alcohol was a factor the crash. Investigators reportedly found several bottles of alcohol in Thomas' car.

The northbound lanes of Highway 290 were blocked for hours after the wreck and reopened just after 9am.

The crash remains under investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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