Driver Swerves To Avoid Deer, Two Children Die In Crash

Two children were killed when a minivan collided with one of several deer crossing Interstate 80 near Odessa, Nebraska west of Kearney Sunday night.

A family of six from Littleton, Colorado saw their vacation take a deadly turn just before 9 p.m.

Their van had just passed a truck when a herd of deer tried crossing the highway. The driver swerved to miss the animals and was struck from behind by the truck pulling a car trailer, causing the minivan to roll and killing 14-year-old Michael Betts and his 4-year-old sister Cora Betts.

Four others in the van were taken to a Kearney hospital with injuries not considered to be life threatening. Nebraska State Patrol investigators say all were wearing seat belts.

“In rural areas of the state, which is a majority of the state of Nebraska, it's their kingdom to live in and they're out roaming freely and we need to be prepared for that,” Nebraska State Patrol Capt. Tom Schwarten said Monday.

“A good reminder for anybody that travels on the roadways in the state that we have to be prepared as operators of motor vehicles for unexpected things that you're not anticipating."

Capt. Schwarten says if you encounter a deer, the most important thing is to maintain control of your vehicle and do not attempt evasive action, like swerving into oncoming traffic.

“You want to try and avoid all the injuries. Where we have severe injuries or deaths related to a vehicle trying to take evasive action.”

As this crash demonstrates, evasive action can be more dangerous than a collision with the deer itself.

The Iowa State Patrol uses the motto “Don't Veer To Avoid Deer. It says swerving moves your car into oncoming lanes of traffic or potentially into ditches along the roadway.