It's a morning ritual parents can identify with — dropping the kids off at school and hustling to get to work.
Dr. Adam Smith was on his way to Mari Sandoz Elementary Wednesday morning. He never made it.
Smith died at the scene of a fiery crash near 126th and Harrison Streets, and two of his sons were injured.
Fred Amster of Omaha stopped to help. He brought one of the boys, Justin, 8, to his vehicle after another man had removed both youngsters from their father's car.
Justin told passersby he wanted to see his father, who remained in the mangled Ford Focus. Then he asked a question.
“It gets to you, a little boy asking you if his dad is dead,” said Amster, trying to maintain his composure.
A colleague described Adam Smith, 33, as one of the most promising young physicians at Creighton University Medical Center. He was in a radiology residency there and planned to begin a fellowship at a Texas cancer institute in 2012.
“Creighton lost a great person, but the whole world lost a great medical mind,'' said Dr. Minh Luu, who worked with him.
The Smith car was struck by a Honda Accord driven by Jason Laware, 27 about 8 a.m.
LaVista police said Laware, originally from New Hampshire, hit a curb, crossed the median and struck the Smith car head-on.
Police said there was a smell of alcohol coming from Laware at the scene. Laware's blood-alcohol level reportedly was over .30, a Smith colleague said. That could not be confirmed with law enforcement officers. The legal limit in Nebraska is .08.
Laware was westbound and Smith eastbound on Harrison Street. Amster said he had been following the Honda, which he said was moving fast and erratically.
After the Smith car was struck by Laware's Honda, a third vehicle struck Smith's Focus on the passenger side. A small fire broke out.
Julio Medina, another person who stopped to give aid, gave his fire extinguisher to someone else, who put out the blaze.
Medina, 30, pulled Smith's sons from the Focus. They were taken to Creighton, and their injuries were not considered life threatening.
Medina said Laware was conscious after the crash. Laware also was taken to Creighton with non-life threatening injuries.
Police said Laware's local address was 6855 S. 118th St., an extended-stay hotel.
A MySpace page that matched the name and age of Laware displayed comments and photos centered on drinking. Photos on the MySpace page of Laware matched photos of the driver taken at the scene.
A number of photos showed Laware drinking and celebrating his alcohol consumption. On the page, Laware says his occupation is “fulltime rockstar part time street drinker.”
One post on the page says, “I like playing/making music I sometimes drink before noon and curse in public as well as in front of small children and old people.”
He also posted that “I could care less about a desk job. I'm a real person who loves the people I'm close to.”
Laware has no previous criminal record in Nebraska.
The Smiths had three sons, the oldest being 8-year-old Justin. The names of the other boys were not available.
Smith, a California native, had earned a fellowship at the renowned University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Creighton officials said.
Luu said Smith's wife Melissa works as a nurse at Methodist Hospital. She is a strong woman who is holding up amazingly well, Luu said, but the boys are scared.
Luu said it was unusual that Smith wasn't at work early Wednesday. He said Smith usually showed up two hours early to get extra reading and studying in. He found out later that Smith was taking Justin to school and that's why he was late.
“He never called in sick, was always there,” Luu said.
Luu said Smith was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a family man. He was angry about how his friend died and that a drunken driver may be responsible.
“This stuff is going too far,” Luu said, speaking of the crash that killed Smith and a crash Monday that involved alcohol and killed four motorcyclists. “People need to stop and look at their lives. Not only are they destroying their own lives but they are destroying others'.”
A Millard School District spokeswoman said crisis counselors were at Sandoz Elementary Wednesday and would be back again Thursday.
Luu and Dr. Lincoln Wong graduated with Smith from the Creighton medical school in 2006. All worked in the radiology residency. Luu and Wong provided this statement by email:
“We were all very shocked and deeply saddened to learn of Adam's passing. Having worked closely with Adam for the past four years, we've come to know him well. He was an intelligent, level-headed individual with a strong sense of community service and patient well-being who lived up to the values of Creighton University.
“This was his last year of training before moving to Texas to start a new life and a new career. He was a man devoted to his church and family, and we admired his ability to balance a busy family life with a busy work schedule. His absence will be greatly missed by many in our work family, and we feel blessed for having known him.”
World-Herald staff writer Kevin Cole contributed to this report.