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Saban to Texas? Unlikely, but possible

- by Jon Mark Beilue

It is ugly in Austin, and will only get worse as the football season clicks down for embattled Texas coach Mack Brown.

Even three weeks into the season, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Brown’s 16th season at UT will be his last. The Longhorns are in their fourth season of mediocrity — by Texas standards — and the patience from a 128-27 record from 1998 to 2009 seems all but exhausted.

Texas, 23-18 since playing Alabama for the 2009 national title, is 1-2 and in disarray. After giving up a school-record 550 yards rushing in a 40-21 loss to Brigham Young on Sept. 7, a desperate Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Most wondered why Brown hired the young coordinator from Mississippi State before the 2011 season anyway.

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'Texas' crash: What happened to personal responsibility?

- by Amber Guffey

Before anyone calls me a monster, let me say I think — if reports are true — that Joe Batson and Co. were wrong to facilitate the underage drinking that led to the crash that killed five “Texas” musical cast members and injured a sixth as well as a truck driver.

That being said, Timothy Johnson (the injured cast member) is flat-out wrong to sue Batson and the organization in charge of the musical for the accident. Read the story on that lawsuit here.

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Crash survivor files lawsuit against ‘Texas,’ Batson

- by Kevin Welch, Karen Smith Welch, and Russell Anglin

The lone survivor riding in a car carrying members of the musical “Texas” production that crashed Aug. 12 and left five dead is suing for more than $1 million in damages.

Timothy Johnson is accusing Joe Batson, Coldwater Cattle Company and Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation of negligence in their roles as hosts of a party at Coldwater Ranch to mark the end of the play’s season.

Brian P. Heinrich, who is listed along with David M. Russell as Johnson’s attorney in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the allegations by phone Thursday morning.

Heinrich said Johnson remains hospitalized with serious injuries.

“Obviously this is a terrible tragedy,” Heinrich said. “It’s affected a number of families. Some have lost loved ones. In Mr. Johnson’s case, he has very serious injuries that he and his family are going to deal with, probably for the rest of his life, and these families deserve answers as to how this horrible event occurred under the apparent watch of a group of adults who were charged with their safety. Beyond that, I really can’t comment on any specifics.”

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335-pound lineman is also football cheerleader

- by Jon Mark Beilue

Armand Fernandez-Pierre is a cheerleader for the Episcopal School of Dallas. All right, fine. Though obviously not as many as girls, there’s more than a few boys who are high school cheerleaders.

But not many who are 335 pounds and play nose tackle on the football team.

Last week, Fernandez-Pierre had his way on the line of scrimmage in Episcopal’s season opener. At halftime, he didn’t join his teammates in the lockerroom, but his cheermates on the sideline for a routine at intermission.

That’s as it should be because Armand was a cheerleader long before he joined the football team.

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DPS Report: Driver of ‘Texas’ crew drunk during crash


- by Stephanie Williams

Clinton Diaz, the driver of the car that killed five “Texas” performers and sent one to the hospital had blood alcohol level of 0.165, a Department of Public Safety report said. The report also indicated the presence of marijuana in Diaz’ blood.

“Diaz blood alcohol level was .16, more than twice the legal limit of .08,” Senior Trooper Chris Ray said.

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'Texas' wreck survivor now listed in satisfactory condition

-by Mollie Bryant

The “Texas” company member who was injured in an accident north of Dumas last week that killed five people has moved from critical condition to satisfactory, Northwest Texas Hospital Caytie Martin spokeswoman said.

Timothy Johnson, 30, is now in satisfactory condition at the hospital, Martin said.

On Aug. 12, after leaving a “Texas” end-of-summer party, a Ford Taurus carrying six cast and crew members in the production ran a stop sign at the intersection of Farm-to-Market Road 119 and U.S. Highway 287 and was struck by a tractor-trailer.

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Evidence of alcohol found in fatal ‘Texas’ wreck

- Karen Welch and Ricky Treon

Troopers said they found alcoholic beverage containers in the vehicle carrying five “Texas” cast and crew members that were killed in a Monday night wreck north of Dumas, and a state agency is investigating how the containers got there.

Senior Department of Public Safety Trooper Christopher Ray said Wednesday that when DPS troopers arrived at the intersection of Farm-to-Market Road 119 and U.S. Highway 287 they found alcohol containers in the Ford Taurus driven by Clint Diaz, 20, of Amarillo.

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H.S. volleyball: Amarillo High Lady Sandies regroup to defeat Tascosa Lady Rebels

-by Terrence Hunley

When Amarillo High and Tascosa play in volleyball, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is.

When the Lady Sandies faced off against the Lady Rebels on Tuesday, for just the second time since departing Class 5A for 4A a season ago, it was in front of nearly 1,500 fans even before the school year had started. Amarillo High won the match, 20-25, 25-12, 25-17, 25-13, at AHS Activity Center.

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Friends recall cast, crew as ‘vibrant,’ ‘talented’

- by Chip Chandler

One was remembered for his bounding energy and huge smile. Another for a powerful singing voice that carried across the street from his Canyon apartment. All were remembered for their passion for theater and dance.

And all will be mourned by the Amarillo-area arts community following a fatal Monday night accident. The crash claimed the lives of five members of the “Texas” musical drama company — Clint Diaz, Andrew Duncan, Amanda Starz, Julian Arredondo IV and Eric Harrison — and seriously injured a sixth, Timothy Johnson.

As word spread of the deaths overnight Monday and into Tuesday, Amarillo and Canyon arts leaders and others were saddened by the loss of artists “so talented and so young,” said Jason Crespin, Amarillo Little Theatre Academy director.

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Update: ‘Texas’ family mourns lost cast members


- by Stephanie Williams

Five members of the company of the “Texas” musical drama, including one Amarillo native, who were killed late Monday in a car accident have been identified by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The victims killed in the wreck were identified by the DPS as Clinton Diaz of Amarillo; Andrew Duncan of Wichita Falls; Amanda Starz of Timonium, Md.; Julian Arredondo of Haltom; and Eric Harrison of Fort Worth.

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It is a very sad day in the Texas Panhandle

'Texas' tragedy touches many


-by Jon Mark Beilue

My wife’s cellphone sounded an early-morning text message Tuesday on the night stand, not unexpected on the first day most teachers are to report back to school. It was not yet light out as she came from the bathroom to read it. But this was not routine. Sandy struggled to read it aloud as her left hand gripped her chest.

With any awful tragic news, the first syllables and the first fractions of time are hard to comprehend. That can’t be. Clint Diaz killed in a car accident? How can that be? How can that possibly be?

We woke our son, Chad, who is spending a final few days at home before returning to college, to tell him what little we knew. There was a time when those two were good arms-across-their-shoulder friends.

He too tried to understand what happened with the same blank mask on his face, the same stony silence and the same feeble questions that had no real answers. Then he began to do what all his age do — text other friends of what he knew.

Details began to emerge quickly that just added layers to the grief, that five cast members from “Texas” were killed Monday night and another critically injured in an accident north of Amarillo. It is a loss for all in the Texas Panhandle.

“Texas” is part of our heritage, a glittery performance of our history, set in Palo Duro Canyon’s amphitheater and performed each summer for the last 48 years to thousands around the world. With pride, we say it’s ours, whether we take visiting relatives to see it each summer or haven’t been in a decade. And those young college-age performers, many from the area, but many who are not, are adopted by many for the summer.

But there are many Tuesday who know of these five as more than a name and a bright young face. They are sons and a daughter, brothers and a sister and close friends who saw them for all the promise and potential they held and so eager to share with others. For them, the loss is unbearable.

Time is fleeting and moves so fast. It’s been a decade now, even longer, that Eric and Clint Diaz were sleeping overnight at our house. Blake and Chad would in turn stay over with their friends at the Diaz country home of Julie and Gabe.

Sleeping, there wasn’t much of that. They were boys, full of energy and ideas. The living room became a late-night wrestling ring and it just wasn’t a normal night if Eric and Clint weren’t getting into some kind of brotherly argument that bordered on a brotherly scrap.

As I left for work Tuesday morning, I could look across the park and see a small tree in a row of bigger ones. The original tree that was there had been struck by lightning one Friday night years ago. Clint was spending the night that evening, and we heard the late-night boom. Early the next morning, the three of us hustled over there and Clint and Chad, maybe 10 years old with bedheads of hair sticking up, were in awe of a split tree from nature’s fury.

Theirs was a smaller world then, defined by school at Paramount Terrace Elementary and the activities of young boys. But Eric and Blake were the same age as were Chad and Clint, and they were among a group and their parents who melded together through similar pursuits.

But kids grow up and their broader, new and growing interests take them on different paths. For Clint, he had a love for acting, a talented bent for dancing and singing and performing. It took him in a different direction at Tascosa while Chad’s athletics took him in another.

They fell out of touch in recent years as childhood friends often do, separated by different colleges, different demands and different pursuits. But the memories of years as snaggled-tooth friends never leaves.

I saw Clint not that long ago. I congratulated him on being in the cast of “Texas,” of being on the cover of our “Get Out,” of how proud we were of his career that was bright and full of promise. His handshake was firm, his voice was deep and strong, thanking me and asking what Chad was up to.

That snapshot of a time in their young lives, for me, is a comfort, but it also seems sadly out of focus on a day of hurt and sadness.

Jon Mark Beilue is an AGN Media columnist. He can be reached at jon.beilue@amarillo.com or 806-345-3318. His blog appears on amarillo.com. Twitter: @jonmarkbeilue.

Foundation director: 5 people killed in accident involving ‘Texas’ cast members

-by Russell Anglin

Five people were killed in an accident involving six cast members of the musical drama “Texas” early Monday on U.S. Highway 287 north of Amarillo, according to a statement issued by Kris Miller, executive director of the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation.

Department of Public Safety officials said investigators were still working the accident and no details were immediately available.

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Homicide victim dumped on Amarillo street


-by Ricky Treon

A body was dumped in the middle of South Bryan Street just north of Southwest Third Avenue on Monday evening with what Amarillo police said appeared to be a gunshot wound and other injuries.

Potter-Randall Special Crimes Unit Lt. Erick Bohannon said Lance Lee Hooser, 29, was found by police shortly after 6:50 p.m., which is when police were called to the intersection for an assault.

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Amarillo residents create nonprofit to benefit Native American reservations

- by Nola Hopkins

It’s easy to see Amarillo residents John and Judy Madden have a passion to help Native American families.

They can tell story after story about the great needs they’ve discovered as they have hauled truckloads of clothing to reservations in the last seven years.

One story is about a grandfather who brought his five grandchildren in for clothing. They left, and a little later he returned. He quietly took a pair of shoes to a corner and was exchanging his worn ones for the better ones, hoping he wouldn’t be noticed.

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