Family members of two young men who died when their car crashed into a thrift shop Friday said they were thankful to the rescue workers who finally recovered the bodies from inside the building.
Dustin R. Hollenbeck, 24, and Dylan J. Thompson, 20, died in the accident that shattered the New 2 You store at 42nd and Leavenworth Streets. Neither man was wearing a seat belt.
A police spokesman said the Metropolitan Utilities District and a scaffolding firm used a large trench box to reach the men's bodies. The steel structure of the trench box protected rescuers in case the building's roof collapsed.
Omaha Fire Department personnel removed the bodies about 18 hours after the crash. Autopsies are scheduled to be performed today.
A spokeswoman for the Hollenbeck family, who declined to be identified, said Dustin's relatives were grateful to all emergency personnel, including police officers, firefighters and public works employees.
“We also want to thank a man who worked at the store and a woman from the Neighborhood Watch program who stayed with us and helped us through this,” the family spokeswoman said. “The diligence of those people and all of the emergency responders was incredible.”
Traffic Sgt. Jason Menning said Hollenbeck was driving a 1997 Buick Park Avenue about 7:15 p.m. Friday when it crossed two southbound lanes on 42nd Street, struck a fire hydrant and crashed into the store. Both men were ejected and landed inside the building.
A memorial service for Hollenbeck, a Central High School graduate, will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 6725 S. 60th St. He is survived by his mother, father, stepmother, fiance and two children.
Nellie Thompson, Dylan Thompson's grandmother, said her grandson lived with his girlfriend and had a son who was born July 4.
He worked at a fast-food restaurant in Council Bluffs and was preparing to join an asphalt paving company, she said.
Nellie Thompson described her grandson, a 2011 graduate of Bryan High School, as “soft-spoken with a very big heart.”
He was thrilled to become a father and doted on the baby, she said.
“He had made some mistakes in life, but he really seemed to be on his way,” she said. “He was just 20 years old ... still a baby.”
Nellie Thompson said her grandson had lived with her and his grandfather, David, before moving in with his girlfriend about a month before their child was born.
She said she didn't know Dustin Hollenbeck because the two men had only recently become acquainted.
“I was told they had been on the way to pick up a friend of Dustin's girlfriend (when the accident occurred),” she said. “We don't know what happened, but this has all been very tragic.”
Thompson is also survived by his mother, father, two brothers and two sisters. Funeral services are pending.
Scott Goff, owner of the thrift store, New 2 You, said a structural engineer told Goff that the building would be stabilized and boarded up in the next couple of days. Goff said he hopes to remove what is salvageable from the store.
On Sunday, 42nd Street remained closed between Leavenworth and Marcy Streets. The eastbound lanes of Leavenworth Street were closed from 43rd to 42nd Street, with traffic directed into one of the westbound lanes.
World-Herald staff writer Rick Ruggles contributed to this report.