Another fatal accident on Highway 75 as the reconstruction process moves forward. A 13-year-old Beaver Lake youth was pronounced dead at the hospital after suffering injuries in the collision in the northbound lanes late Friday afternoon. The accident involved a semi tractor-trailer and three passenger vehicles.
Funeral services for Nathan Houfek will be Wednesday in Bellevue. He was in a Ford Fusion that was the second vehicle struck from behind by the semi, according to the law enforcement report.
Cass County Sheriff Wm. C. Brueggemann said traffic was stopped for the construction in the northbound lane near Church Road when the driver of the Kenworth semi tractor-trailer did not see the stopped vehicles.
The semi, driven by Kevin Monahan, age 60, of Murray, first struck a Buick Park Avenue driven by Phyllis Durand, age 66, of Plattsmouth. The Durand vehicle was sent into the east ditch.
Brueggemann said the semi then struck the Ford Fusion driven by Kelley Houfek, 42, which was pushed into a Mazda van driven Joleen Rose, age 41. The Rose vehicle ended up in the west ditch.
According to Plattsmouth fire command, rescue crews had to use three Jaws of Life sets to extricate four patients from two vehicles.
Durand and Kelley Houfek were flown by medical helicopter to University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha along with two children in the accident. Three medical helicopters landed at the scene, with one of those making two trips.
At last report on Sunday, Durand remained hospitalized in fair condition. Houfek, Nathan’s mother, was released from the hospital. No report was available on the other child that was injured.
The Cass County Sheriff’s Department, Plattsmouth Fire, Plattsmouth EMS, Murray Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Bellevue Fire and the Nebraska State Patrol were the responding agencies.
The accident scene was spread out over about 1,000 feet. (picture at www.cassgram.com) Plattsmouth Fire Chief Mike Wilson said that distance, the heavy damage to the vehicles, and the heat and humidity made it a challenging incident. He said three command areas were needed. One extrication zone to the south was handled by Murray, the extrication to the north was handled by Plattsmouth, and Plattsmouth handled the helicopter landing zone. Wilson said extreme caution had to be taken by crews using the extrication tools to not further injure the patients. All patients were extricated within 33 minutes.
Wilson says the fire and rescue personnel appreciate the outpouring of support for their efforts but the thoughts and prayers of those involved in the rescue are with the victims and their families.
The sheriff’s department says the accident remains under investigation.
Two people died the weekend before in a head-on crash on Highway 75 south of Murray.
The construction on Highway 75 will last several more weeks. In case you missed the July 5th report in Cassgram, the $3.9 million project is between Nebraska Highway 1 and Plattsmouth. The contractor is now removing and patching the pavement. There will be daily lane closures with flagging stations and pilot cars.