Authorities identify 4 Iowans killed in Interstate 80 collision

Authorities have identified the four people who were killed Sunday in a two-vehicle collision between Lincoln and York on Interstate 80.

The four, who were in a westbound 2005 Chevy Equinox, were from Clinton, Iowa, Seward County Sheriff Joe Yocum said.

Officials said the driver of the Equinox, Madison Selser-Smith, 20, also from Clinton, drifted onto the shoulder and drove on rumble strips. She overcorrected and crossed the median, the Sheriff’s Office said. The Equinox collided with an eastbound 2010 Buick Lucerne.

Selser-Smith, who was wearing her seat belt, was taken by helicopter to Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln with life-threatening injuries.

A front-seat passenger in the Equinox, Susan Selser, 49, was killed due to blunt-force trauma, the Sheriff’s Office said in a press release. She was wearing her seat belt, officials said.

Rear-seat passengers Cody Richardson, 20, Troy Wanzek, 20, and Cole Austin, 19, were killed instantly after they were ejected, the Sheriff’s Office said. They were not wearing seat belts, officials said.

The driver of the Buick Lucerne, 75-year-old Anna Richert, of rural Gresham, Nebraska, had life-threatening injuries. She also was taken to Bryan via helicopter. She had been wearing her seat belt, officials said.

Traffic problems related to the collision, at 8 a.m., may have contributed to two other crashes, including a fatal crash, a Nebraska State Patrol spokesman said.

About 10 a.m., a semitrailer truck driver who investigators think may have been texting collided with another semi near the Seward exit, causing a chain reaction.

The 33-year-old semi driver, Adiaziz Jama, from Columbus, Ohio, was killed. A passenger, Mohamed Apdullahi, 30, was taken to a hospital with injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening.

Another collision occurred about 11:30 a.m., when the driver of a Chevrolet SUV rear-ended a semi. Jeffrey Eymann, 68, of Grand Island, was taken to a hospital with injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening.

Iowa’s cable barriers help prevent fatal crashes like the one that killed four in Nebraska

Cruise down Interstate 80 in Iowa and you’ll find a safety feature the state says is saving lives.

The Iowa Department of Transportation started installing cable barriers on interstate medians more than a decade ago, significantly reducing the number of fatalities that occur when a vehicle crosses over the median into oncoming traffic, said Chris Poole, safety programs engineer for the Iowa Department of Transportation.

On Sunday that type of crash claimed four lives west of Lincoln on Interstate 80. A westbound vehicle veered through the median west of Lincoln and collided with an eastbound vehicle.

Jeni Campana, spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Transportation, said the state does not have median barriers on rural sections of I-80 because traffic volume and the width of the medians don’t warrant them.

She said federal guidelines recommend installing cable median barriers where medians are between 30 and 50 feet wide and traffic volume reaches a certain threshold. Medians across Nebraska are at least 64 feet wide and even wider between Omaha and Lincoln.

In most cases a driver entering a median as wide as Nebraska’s would have enough room to slow down and recover to avoid crashing into oncoming traffic, Campana said. The interstate system in Omaha and Lincoln has concrete barriers in the median because traffic volumes are higher and the medians are narrower than in rural areas, she said.

Poole said medians on average in Iowa are about 50 feet wide.

Poole said that 330 miles of Iowa’s interstate system have cable median barriers, or about 42 percent of the total miles. On I-80 alone there are cable barriers in the median from Adair in western Iowa all the way to the state’s eastern border, with shorter stretches of concrete barriers in urban areas.

The barriers have made a difference in reducing cross-median fatalities in the state, Poole said. The state first began installing them on rural sections of interstate in 2003 and made a major push to put them in starting in 2011, he said.

From 2011 to 2015 there was an average of 6.4 cross-median fatalities per year on Iowa’s Interstate system, down from 14.4 from 2005 to 2009.

Dean Sicking, a former engineering professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who has studied the use of median barriers, said it makes sense for Iowa to have the barriers because its traffic volume is higher and its median widths are narrower than Nebraska’s.

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