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Woman and child killed, semi driver arrested in Nebraska crash

Two people died at the scene and three more children were hospitalized with serious injuries.
Credit: Wild Awake - stock.adobe.com

CLAY COUNTY, Nebraska — A semi-truck driver has been arrested following a fatal traffic crash in central Nebraska on Wednesday afternoon.

The Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) said two people died and three others were injured in the crash on Highway 6 near the Adams/Clay County line.

NSP said its preliminary investigation shows that a semi was westbound on Highway 6 around 4:15 p.m. Wednesday when it failed to slow down for stopped traffic that was waiting for a vehicle to turn at Road A.

The semi entered the eastbound lanes, lost control and struck an eastbound Buick Enclave, occupied by one adult and four children, NSP said.

The driver of the Buick SUV, Nicole Pavelka, 30, and one of the children, Ryker Schlichtman, 8, were pronounced dead at the scene.

An 11-year-old and a 10-year-old were transported to Children’s Hospital in Omaha with serious injuries. The fourth child, a 9-year-old, was transported to Mary Lanning Hospital in Hastings with serious injuries. All five are a family from Davenport, Nebraska, according to NSP.

The driver of the semi-truck, Justin Zoerb, 21, of Hazard, Nebraska, was arrested after he was found to have an active arrest warrant out of Hitchcock County.

NSP is conducting a full crash reconstruction and said the crash remains under investigation.

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