Seven people died and another person was left on life support in four bloody crashes over two days on Nebraska roadways.
Early Thursday, two Council Bluffs residents were killed in a crash near Jackson, in northeast Nebraska’s Dakota County.
At about 3:40 a.m., Dakota County sheriff’s deputies were called to investigate the single-vehicle crash near mile marker 420 on U.S. Highway 20. The car, a Nissan sedan, had gone over an embankment and into a creek on the northeast side of the highway.
The front-seat passenger, Connie Fauzae, 57, and another passenger, Espionza Lara, 9, both of Council Bluffs, were pronounced dead at the scene. A third passenger, Jose Lara, 10, also of Council Bluffs, was taken by medical helicopter to Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, Iowa. He is on life support, officials said.
The driver, Christopher Cox, 45, also of the Bluffs, was taken to Mercy by Ponca Fire and Rescue. Later, Cox was arrested on suspicion of two counts of misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide and one count of suspicion of driving without a license.
Cox told officials he swerved to miss a deer, causing the vehicle to go off the roadway.
Wednesday, in a fiery crash south of North Platte, two men were killed and another man later died at a hospital.
A pickup truck heading north on U.S. Highway 83 collided with a southbound semitrailer truck at about 7:30 p.m. near Lake Maloney State Recreation Area, said the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
Witnesses reported that the pickup was speeding and being driven aggressively before the crash. The pickup’s driver tried to pass another vehicle and veered into the southbound lane of traffic, striking the semi head-on, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Highway 83 was closed and traffic detoured for about five hours after the crash.
The semi truck was hauling a fuel tanker, and both vehicles were in flames when authorities arrived on the scene.
The driver of the pickup, Shane O’Conner, 28, of Westminster, Colorado, was pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger, Craig Vanmeter, 32, of North Platte, was ejected from the pickup and died later at the North Platte hospital, Great Plains Health.
The semi’s driver, Ralph Brandt, 66, of Ovid, Colorado, also was pronounced dead at the scene, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The pickup, a 2006 Ford, had been stolen in Westminster, the Sheriff’s Office said, and O’Conner had what was thought to be methamphetamine on him. The office said other types of drugs, drug paraphernalia and alcoholic beverages were found in the pickup.
The highest number of Nebraska traffic deaths in a single day is 11, on Aug. 8, 1976, said Fred Zwonechek, administrator of the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety. Those deaths, he said, occurred in three crashes, one of which was between a train and a church bus in Hitchcock County, which killed nine people.
Nearly as many people, 10, were killed on Feb. 26, 1972 in five crashes, Zwonechek said.
So far this month, Nebraska has recorded 11 roadway deaths, a toll that’s ahead of the 2012-15 average of 9.25 deaths by June 9.
So far this year, the state has reported 82 road fatalities, below the 2012-15 average of 91.3. Last year by June 9, Nebraska had totaled 105 fatalities.
» A 62-year-old motorist, Neil Jurgens, was killed in a three-vehicle crash near Minden, Nebraska, at the intersection of U.S. Highway 34/6 and Kearney County Road 28.
The Minden man was pronounced dead at the scene, said the Kearney County Sheriff’s Office, which said the drivers of the two other vehicles were not injured.
None of the drivers used seat belts, authorities said.
The Sheriff’s Office said Jurgens was westbound on Highway 34/6 when his 1993 Nissan Sentra was struck from behind by a 1994 Dodge pickup driven by Jason Fiske, 37, of Minden. Jurgens’ car then entered the eastbound lane, where it was struck by a 2008 Chevrolet pickup driven by Andrew Schell, 31, of Axtell.
» A 71-year-old Hastings man, Robert Samuelson, was killed Wednesday night in a crash on U.S. Highway 281 in Adams County, about 4 miles north of Hastings.
The Nebraska State Patrol said a northbound car crossed the median and collided with Samuelson’s car. The other driver was taken to a Hastings hospital.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.