Neighbors, family react after east Lincoln crash kills 6

Police said the crash was reported by an automated iPhone feature
Six people are dead after a crash that Lincoln Police are calling one of the worst accidents in recent memory.
Published: Oct. 2, 2022 at 10:06 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Six people are dead after a crash that Lincoln Police are calling one of the worst accidents in recent memory.

Early Sunday morning, police reported that five people were killed at the scene of a crash at 56th and Randolph streets, and one woman was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. LPD later reported the woman had succumbed to her injuries.

The victims range in age from 21 to 26. One of them was Jonathan Koch.

“He was the most caring and trusting person ever,” said his sister, Kayla Kelley.

“He also knew no strangers, anyone that knew Jonny knew Johnny very well,” said Caleigh Keown, his other sister. “I think he would want everyone to remember how much he cared about them, cause he was such a caring guy.”

Jonny and five friends were on their way home around 2 a.m. Sunday, when they collided head-on with a tree in a quiet, east Lincoln neighborhood.

“It’s one of those things you don’t ever want to see in your life,” says Dale Taylor, who lives across the street from where the crash happened.

Taylor says his wife woke him up after she heard the impact.

“I got up very reluctantly thinking well, there’s just some little crash or whatever,” he says. “I didn’t expect something this bad”

“My daughter and my son came to my room and said ‘oh my God dad, there’s an accident, someone hit our tree,’” says Brad Bartak. “I was sound asleep.”

The crash happened in Bartak’s front yard. Bartak and other neighbors immediately jumped into action, trying to help before first responders arrived on the scene.

“I noticed that there was actually a fire coming from the engine. . . I basically grabbed the garden hose and ran it up to the car and we were dousing it.”

Police are still investigating the cause of the crash but said it was reported by an iPhone that detected the impact and called responders automatically when the phone’s owner didn’t respond.

Emergency crews were on the scene responding for at least five hours.

Sunday afternoon, dozens arrived at Bartak’s house to say goodbye to Jonny — a brother, son, and a friend. Many also knew most of the other victims, too.

“Life is so short. In the blink of an eye, your world is shattering around you,” Kayla said. “But he would not want us to be heartbroken, he would want us to pick ourselves up and move forward.”

Despite the outcome of the tragedy, many took peace in knowing that so many were willing to help, even in the middle of the night.

“The neighborhood came together for this,” says Bartak. “The way we reacted to it, we did the best we could, I wish we could’ve done more, but we worked with what we had.”

While LPD continue to investigate, they encourage anyone who may have any information to call 402-442-6111.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.