New Mexico safety Markel Byrd was killed in a single-car accident Tuesday afternoon, the school announced in a statement.
Byrd, 20, was traveling home for the holidays with his girlfriend when a tire on their vehicle blew out on Interstate 40 near Gallup. According to the statement, both Byrd and his girlfriend were ejected from the vehicle, Byrd dying instantly and his girlfriend suffering undisclosed injuries.
The school said she is in critical condition at an area hospital.
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"This is an absolute tragedy. Markel Byrd was an outstanding person and student-athlete and we will miss him," head coach Bob Davie said in the statement. "I was with the family late Tuesday night and obviously they are devastated. Our thoughts and prayers go to them. Markel will forever be a member of our family."
Byrd had played safety for the Lobos the last two seasons after redshirting his freshman season and had become an integral part of their defense.
His final game was last Saturday's New Mexico Bowl, where the San Diego native recorded three solo tackles.
The school says memorial service and funeral arrangements are pending.