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Road safety officials urge more caution on I-80 following deadly incidents

Distracted driving blamed for Sunday fatality
Posted at 1:14 PM, May 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-09 16:39:50-04

Nebraska road safety officials have been urging caution following deadly few weeks on Interstate 80. 

The Nebraska Safety Council stresses to pay attention on the roads after a deadly couple weeks on I-80. The council is working with lawmakers to create laws to make texting and driving and wearing a seatbelt primary offenses. 

"It's very frustrating to see the fatalities happen and especially when people are not wearing their seatbelt. That is something that is easy to do--put your seatbelt on," said Eric Koeppe, President of the National Safety Council-Nebraska. 

On Sunday, three bad crashes happened on I-80, resulting in at least four deaths. The Nebraska State Patrol said one of the crashes, which occurred at about 10 a.m. near mile marker 378, involved several trucks which caught fire.

According to Nebraska State Patrol, Abdiaziz Jama, 33, of Columbus, Ohio, was killed in the crash, when the semi he was driving failed to slow down and rear ended another semi, causing a chain reaction that included a third semi and a 2013 Dodge Ram truck. 

Investigators say Jama may have been texting at the time of the crash. 

NSP also responded to a different crash Sunday on I-80 near mile marker 367. This crash happened when a Chevrolet SUV failed to observe that traffic had slowed and rear-ended a semi. The driver of the SUV, Jeffrey Eymann, 68, of Grand Island, was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The semi driver was uninjured.

In a separate incident Sunday, the Seward County Sheriff's Office says four people were killed in a crash just west of the Milford rest area, located near I-80 mile marker 381. 

The Sheriff's Office said a vehicle crossed over into the eastbound lanes and struck another vehicle, killing four people who were not wearing seatbelts. I-80 traffic going east was diverted for several hours to the Seward exit, and the NSP helicopter landed on the interstate to assist at mile marker 367.

On April 29, NSP closed both directions of Interstate 80 near Seward after poor visibility caused a multi-vehicle crash that left one dead and several others injured. Franklin Owens, 81, of Colorado Springs, was pronounced dead after he was life-flighted to Lincoln, NSP said. All other injuries were life-threatening.

High winds kicked up dust from nearby fields that day, causing zero-visibility conditions across a 40-50 mile stretch of I-80, resulting in the crash that involved more than 30 vehicles. 

Similar conditions caused another pile-up the following day in the same area. Six semi-tractor-trailers and several passenger vehicles were involved in a crash that left several injured.

Texting and driving bills to make it a primary offense have circulated around the legislature however they have failed to get out of committee, something that frustrates Sen. Robert Hiklemann, "They don't like to put mandates on personal freedoms, that's just a fact of our legislature."

Hilkemann is hopeful next session with a new batch of senators, something can pass.