Icy roads blamed in 4 deaths - Omaha.com
Published Friday, November 22, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 7:44 pm
Icy roads blamed in 4 deaths

The area's first blast of winter proved deadly.

Four people lost their lives in crashes Thursday on icy roads and highways in the Omaha-metro area and western Iowa.

Two Nebraskans, a boss and his employee, died Thursday afternoon on Bennington Road north of Omaha as they returned to work after lunch.

In Iowa, a Wisconsin driver died in one-vehicle crash on Interstate 80 near Neola in Pottawattamie County. A Dunlap, Iowa, man died later in the day in a two-vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 30 south of Woodbine.

Three of the deaths occurred just as moisture fell over the lunch hour, creating a sheen of ice that sent cars slipping and sliding. At one point Thursday, Omaha police stopped responding to crashes, unless they involved an injury or a vehicle stuck in traffic.

Scott McIntyre, Omaha's street maintenance engineer, said the ice glazing that remained on the road overnight and early Friday likely would burn off once the morning sun made an appearance. And the Friday morning commute did prove less hazardous than travel on Thursday.

After overnight lows in the Omaha-Council Bluffs vicinity dipped into the mid-teens, Omaha should see highs today around 30 degrees.

Winds have diminished but remain strong out of the northwest, with gusts of 20 mph.

Overnight lows Friday into Saturday morning will be in the single digits in northeast Nebraska and the teens in southeast Nebraska. The high Saturday will be in the low to mid-20s and high the Sunday in low 30s.

The storm, which brought one half to one inch of snow to the Omaha area, prompted cancellations, including after-school activities at numerous public schools in Omaha and Council Bluffs. Several southwest Iowa districts said school would start late today due to concern over road conditions.

Because of the wintry weather, organizers of today's noon memorial service for President John F. Kennedy moved the event from Memorial Park to Dundee Presbyterian Church.

The freezing rain-sleet mix began about noon and ended about mid-afternoon.

Light snow began falling in Omaha shortly after 6 p.m. The forecast of a half-inch to 1 inch of accumulation wasn't enough to bring out the City of Omaha's snowplows.

But city crews had gone out early Thursday to pre-treat the streets. By 6 p.m., 48 city trucks were on the streets spreading road salt, while a dozen trucks were still putting down brine, McIntyre said.

Road conditions were cited as contributing to Thursday's fatal crashes.

The Nebraska State Patrol identified the two victims of a fatal crash on Bennington Road near Nebraska Highway 133 north of Omaha as George Trobaugh, 59, of Omaha and Frank Besch, 54, of Valley, Neb.

The patrol said Trobaugh and Besch were eastbound in a 2003 Ford Ranger pickup truck when it left the roadway and rolled, striking a tree on the south side of Bennington Road.

Trobaugh was driving the pickup, the patrol said, and both men were wearing seat belts.

Trobaugh's former wife, Ricky Ann, 49, said Friday that the patrol told her that the pickup slid off the roadway after skidding on a section of “black ice,'' a thin, clear patch of ice that is difficult to spot.

“There was no way they could have avoided it,'' she said. “It happened so fast.''

Ricky Ann Trobaugh said Besch was her ex-husband's boss. She said they were returning to work from Besch's home in Valley.

Besch owns Barnett & Ramel Optical on North 16th Street in Omaha, she said. Trobaugh was vice president of special projects.

“He was a wonderful person,'' she said. “He loved his kids so much.''

Ricky Ann said she and George, who divorced a couple of years ago and remained friends, have a 27-year-old son and an 18-year-old daughter.

The Iowa State Patrol identified the person who died in the Neola crash as Ronald Wahl, 64, of Edgerton, Wis.

The patrol said the crash happened about noon where Interstates 80 and 680 split north of Council Bluffs. Wahl lost control of his 1999 Chevy Silverado at the 27.4 mile-marker of westbound Interstate 80.

He was ejected from the pickup after it entered a ditch and rolled several times, the State Patrol said. Troopers pronounced him dead at the scene. He was not wearing a seat belt.

Rex Rains, 75, of Dunlap, was killed in the U.S. Highway 30 crash southwest of Woodbine. It happened about 9:45 p.m.

South of Lincoln, a private ambulance with a hospice patient inside rolled onto its side.

Two Midwest Medical workers were taking an 88-year-old woman to her home in Iowa.

All three were transferred to Bryan Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.

DeWald said Omaha-area temperatures are expected to dip again on Saturday, with a high of 24 degrees and an overnight low of 11. The high Sunday could reach 33.

Thanksgiving week is expected to be dry but cold.

World-Herald staff writers Emerson Clarridge, Judith Nygren, Maggie O'Brien and Ruth Oliver contributed to this report, as did the World-Herald News Service.

ALSO SEE: Weather closings, cancellations, postponements

Contact the writer: Alissa Skelton

alissa.skelton@owh.com    |   402-444-1066    |  

Alissa is a breaking news and general assignment reporter for Omaha.com.

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