Five people have died in two accidents on I-80 in western Nebraska, a deadly chain reaction that began when a semi tractor-trailer with mechanical problems stalled on the interstate.
The Nebraska State Patrol and the Cheyenne County Attorney’s office reports a semi tractor-trailer with mechanical problems traveling west on I-80 stalled on a lane of the interstate at about 4:22am Sunday. A truck driven by 27-year-old Keith Johnson of Big Lake, Minnesota ran into the stalled truck. Johnson died in the wreck. The driver of the stalled truck, 66-year-old Vladimir Zhukov of Oak Park, Illinois, was uninjured, according to the patrol.
Traffic backed up on the westbound lane of I-80 due to the wreck.
Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub says a truck driving toward the line of traffic slammed into the back of a 2010 Ford Mustang stopped on the interstate. The collision forced the Mustang into a 2007 Toyota Corolla in front of it, driving the Corolla underneath a truck in front of it. The driver of the Mustang and the driver of the Corolla died in the wreck. Two children riding in the Corolla died.
“As a result of the impact at the first accident site, there was one fatality,” Schaub tells Nebraska Radio Network. “Then, at the second accident site at about mile marker 41, there were four deaths,”
Schaub says charges have been filed against the driver of the truck, Josef Slezak of Illinois.
“Charges were filed against Mr. Slezak; four counts of manslaughter as well as four counts of motor vehicle homicide,” Schaub says.
Schaub declines to give details about his decision to file the charges.
“Charges were filed as a result of the information that was collected at the scene as a result of information from the accident reconstruction. There were witness statements as well,” Schaub says.
Schaub says Slezak is being held in the Cheyenne County jail on $1 million bond.
Names of the four fatalities have not been released. Schaub says autopsies are scheduled for tomorrow morning.