A passing lane was available just past the scene of a fatal accident Monday in Harvey County in which a driver smashed into a semitrailer carrying cattle while trying to get around another car, officials said Tuesday.
Michael Ehss, 54, was driving a Toyota Camry east on U.S. 50 east of Newton just past 6 p.m. Monday when he merged into the westbound lane to pass the vehicle in front of him. His car hit a 2000 Peterbuilt semitrailer hauling about 40 head of cattle. Emergency workers pronounced Ehss dead at the scene.
“What’s really a shame here is … he could have waited just a minute, because there was a passing lane” ahead, Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said.
Both vehicles landed in ditches on opposite sides of the highway and caught fire.
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The driver of the semi, Jeffrey Duhsmann, 47, of West Point, Neb., crawled out of his semi. Emergency workers transported him to Wesley Medical Center, where doctors treated and released him.
Walton said road conditions were not a factor. U.S. 50 was closed from I-135 to the town of Walton, about a seven-mile stretch, until about 3:30 a.m.
Eight head of cattle died or needed to be put down, Walton said. About 30 were transported to a farm about a half-mile from where the crash occurred.
“They’re planning to pick up the cattle tomorrow,” Walton said Tuesday.
Walton was grateful to local farmers who helped get cattle out of the trailer. They set up fencing and gates to confine the animals.
“They put this plan together,” he said. “They came up with the panels. It was just amazing what they did. It was just all these local guys.”