Interstate 80 in Western, NE Van And Semi Crash, Sep 1996


Iowa City (AP) - University of Iowa officials and the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C., are working together to contact relatives of the victims in a van-semitrailer crash that killed five people and injured seven others in Nebraska.
Four of the victims were University of Iowa graduate students enrolled in a special program designed to help them modernize their nation's primary education system. The fifth victim was a spouse of one of the students.
The group's rental van smashed into the rear of the truck at a rest stop shortly after midnight Monday on Interstate 80 in western Nebraska.
The victims were returning to Iowa City after a Labor Day holiday trip to Mount Rushmore and Denver. Classes resumed Tuesday at the University of Iowa.
Iowa officials said the names of the victims wouldn't be released until relatives had been notified. Nebraska officials said three of the victims were females, ages 31, 35 and 36, while two were males, ages 29 and 30.
"The impact was apparently great," Steve Yussen, dean of the College of Education, said at a news conference.
The four graduate students who died had been at the university for a year and were enrolled in the school's College of Education, Yussen said.
Iowa is one of three U.S. universities selected to host students for the Indonesian Primary Teacher Education Development Project, which is sponsored by the World Bank.
"We express our deep sorrow at this terrible tragedy and extend our sympathy and heartfelt grief to the friends and families of the students," Yussen said.
"We are all deeply saddened by this tragedy. The students were at the college and the university to learn how to make their native country a better place for future generations of children," he said.
Yussen said there are about 40 Indonesian students on campus and that they had been told about the crash. He said they declined to speak to reporters.
'As you might imagine, the students are very upset," he said.
Most of the victims had children, but they were not living with their parents at Iowa, said Paul Retish, director of International Education in the College of Education.
University officials said there were seven men and five women in the van.
Phillip Jones, dean of students at Iowa, said the trip was not sponsored by the university and that the van was rented from a private Iowa City company.
Investigators would not speculate on the nature of the accident.
Three of the five victims were pronounced dead at the scene, Iowa officials said, and two others died in the hospital.
Iowa officials said at the news conference three injured passengers were in stable condition at Nebraska hospitals and would be taken to University Hospitals in Iowa City.
Four others, including the van's driver, were treated for minor injuries and released. The driver of the semi-trailer who was asleep inside the cab when the accident occurred, was not injured.
Iowa officials said a campus memorial service is planned although there were no immediate details.

The Courier Waterloo Iowa 1996-09-03