Surviving The Drive, Crash Victims Speak 30 Years Later

Two fatal crashes in 1981. Two teens die before finishing high school. Survivors from both of those crashes open up.

"It never goes away...it's always there." said Kristine Kleindienst.

"It affects you the rest of your life." said David Troia.

The year, 1981. It left a mark on the lives of Kristine Kleindienst and David Troia. Both were involved in fatal car crashes.

David said, "A car hit us broadside, hit us on the passenger side and then the car ignited."

It was a crash many in our community remember well. David and three classmates-heading to a Burke High School Basketball game-were rammed by another car. It happened near 120th and Pacific. It was a Monday night.

The Camaro they were riding in was crushed.

David said, "I just remember being lunged into the dash and window and then the car igniting immediately."

David was sitting in the front passenger seat. He couldn't get out.

"My tennis shoes were melted to the bottom of the car." said David.

Mike Smutney, just 16-years-old, died in the crash. Everyone else suffered serious injuries.

David said, "I was burned. I had a concussion, broken bones."

Just months before that crash-another one on a rural road outside of Council Bluffs.

Kristine Kleindienst's brother, Kevin, picked her up from a friend's house. It was a typical Sunday afternoon.

"We were driving too fast. It's one of those accidents you see on tv where the car goes rolling." said Kleindienst. "When the car finally stopped it was surreal."

Just 13-Kristine thought Kevin was just unconscious-until she was taken to the hospital.

"I'd never seen my parents cry-not my dad...not like that. As soon as I saw him I knew." said Kristine.

Her brother, just 18-years-old-- was gone.

"He was my hero." said Kristine.

Kevin never got to graduate from Lewis Central High School. They left an empty seat for him at the graduation ceremony.

Both David and Kristine say speed played a role in these crashes. They hope by sharing their stories-from 30 years ago-it will save lives today.

Kristine said, "I think we've had enough accidents here lately. It's a cry for help. We need to have awareness and people need to slow down. Life's fragile."

David said, ""It is hard to put a timeline on how long it takes to heal. No matter how you look at it...it's still something that stays with you."


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