The deadly accident on Interstate 80 in western Nebraska Sunday morning killed four members of a Maryland family, including the mother who was 30 weeks pregnant with the couple’s third child.
Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub released the names of the victims of the chain-reaction accident that killed five as well as the unborn child.
The series of tragic events began around 4:30am Sunday when a disabled truck driven by 66-year-old Vladamir Zhukov of Wheeling, IL stalled in one of the west-bound lanes of I-80. A semi tractor-trailer driven by 27-year-old Keith A. Johnson of Big Lake, MN crashed into the stalled truck. Johnson died in the wreck. Zhukov was not injured.
As emergency crews responded to that accident, a third semi tractor-trailer traveling west on I-80 failed to heed warning signs and plowed into the back of a 2010 Ford Mustang, driven by 30-year-old Christopher Schmidt of Gaithersburg, MD. The impact forced Schmidt’s car into the rear of a 2007 Toyota Corolla driven by his 28-year-old wife, Diana. The crash propelled the Corolla forward, driving it underneath the trailer of a truck stopped in front of her.
The crash killed Christopher Schmidt, Diana Schmidt and their two children; 3-year-old Samuel Schmidt and 2-year-old Conner Schmidt. Diana Schmidt was approximately 30 weeks pregnant, according to the attorney’s office.
The driver of the semi that crashed into the Mustang, 36-year-old Josef Slezak of Rivergrover, IL has been charged with four counts of manslaughter as well as four counts of motor vehicle homicide.
Schaub says Slezark is being held in the Cheyenne County jail on $1 million bond.