OGALLALA, Neb. (KMSP) - A truck driver from Florida has been charged with 5 counts of motor vehicle homicide and one count of reckless driving for a western Nebraska crash that killed 5 members of a Minneapolis family.
Tony Weekly, 53, of Baker, Fla., was “inattentive and distracted by outside influences" and “traveling at a high-rate of speed in a construction zone,” according to charges filed Tuesday in Keith County, Nebraska. The crash claimed the lives of 29-year-old Jamison Pals, 29-year-old Kathryne Pals and their three children -- 3-year-old Ezra, 23-month-old Violet, and 3-month-old Calvin.
The Pals family was on their way to Colorado to get training to become missionaries in Japan.
“This guy made a mistake that cost us people that we love dearly,” said Jamison’s father, Rick Pals. “But I know Jamison himself wouldn't hold anything like this against somebody.”
Rick Pals was at home in Hugo, Minn. when he received the call. The family was traveling in his van so they could fit all three children comfortably.
“It still just seems so unreal, like they can't be gone -- this can't have happened,” Pals said.
According to the Nebraska State Patrol, the crash happened Sunday just before 11:30 a.m. in a construction zone about four miles west of Brule, Neb. According to the State Patrol’s investigation, Weekly’s westbound semi rear-ended the Pals' minivan. That collision caused the semi and the Pals' minivan to hit another minivan, an SUV, and a van that were also going westbound. The semi and the Pals' minivan both caught fire.
6th death from crash
Tuesday afternoon, the Nebraska State Patrol confirmed a sixth death in connection with the crash. Terry Sullivan, 56, of Denver passed away on Aug. 1, but remained on life support to facilitate the donation of organs. Sullivan was the driver of a Plymouth Voyager minivan involved in the crash.
The crash closed about 10 miles of Interstate 80 eastbound and westbound for about six hours.
Legacy of selflessness
Andy Carr with Feed My Starving Shildren worked with Jamison Pals for three years. Pals is remembered as a selfless grant writer.
“He would want this man to know that Jesus loves him,” Carr said.
The couple shared a faith so strong it's extended even after death.
“Jamison would tell you, ‘Are you ready? Are you ready for something like this?’ I can tell you Jamison was,” Carr said.