Wahoo residents say ‘nothing was done’ to make deadly intersection safer

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 5:15 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Three siblings died at the intersection of Highways 77 and 109 on Tuesday night as the 18-year-old driver, Monica Chohon, who, after coming to a stop, tried to cross six lanes of traffic. Her vehicle and a pickup collided.

The speed limit for Highway 77 is 65mph. Two younger brothers were passengers — James, a sixth-grader, and Andrew, 7. They also died.

This is a familiar story to Wendy Mach. Her parents, Larry and Marty, died in September, trying to cross Highway 77 in the same direction. She said the state hasn’t changed a thing to make this intersection safer: Five lives lost in 10 months.

“Nothing was done. Nothing was done from September to now,” she said. “It’s very senseless.”

Nebraska Department of Transportation officials tell 6 News that they were asked to study whether a traffic signal should go here in the last year, and they concluded it wouldn’t make a difference. That is a baffling answer to many in Wahoo, who believe if a traffic signal isn’t the answer, how about reducing speeds — or anything — to calm traffic.

“I have three children myself, and one who is 15 and soon to be a driver,” Julie Warford of Wahoo said. “But she drives now with at-age teens. It scares me to know they’re going through that intersection to go to Omaha.”

Julie Warford’s husband had an accident in February. Fortunately, everyone walked away from it.

Patty Benal of Wahoo said, “We get people from all over, driving the highway. Something definitely needs to be done.”

As grief counselors comforted students at Bishop Neumann High School, where Monica just graduated, one of the priests described her as “quiet but joyful, with a calming and peaceful presence in a wonderful family.”

For Mach, last night’s crash brought up old frustrations. After hearing the news, she drove to the scene. She still believes if changes had been made when her parents were killed last fall, maybe last night doesn’t happen.

“I know how these people are feeling,” she said. “All I could do was go there and pray. It felt like that’s where I needed to be.”

A petition has been started get a traffic light at the intersection.

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