Sandra Clark, Patsy Baumgarner and Brandon Clark were bound for Billings, Mont., on Friday morning, a close-knit family traveling to see more of their own, Sandra's husband said.
But uncommon wintry weather in the Nebraska Panhandle cut their road trip short. The three were killed after a snow-slicked stretch of U.S. 20 just east of Crawford sent their eastbound truck sliding sideways and into an oncoming semitrailer, the Nebraska State Patrol said.
Baumgarner, 66; her daughter Sandra, 43; and nephew Brandon, 23, were declared dead at the scene. Baumgarner and Brandon Clark lived in Lincoln, and Sandra Clark lived in Phillipsburg, Kan.
The driver of the semi they collided with was treated for minor injuries at Chadron Community Hospital.
That morning, 24-mile-per-hour wind gusts carried light snow in a combination that “creates for just terrible driving conditions,” said meteorologist Chad Hahn of the National Weather Service in Cheyenne, Wyo.
Visibility near Chadron dropped to about 1.5 miles, Hahn said. From Thursday night through Friday, the northern Panhandle area received between 9 and 13 inches of snow, according to National Weather Service reports.
"They thought they were going to run into weather," said Gary Buchner, Sandra Clark's husband. But he said they may have underestimated the storm.
Buchner will remember his wife of eight years, a real estate attorney, as a lover of nature and horses.
“She had a way with colts — got along with them real well,” Buchner said.
Clark was a graduate of Chadron High School and the University of Nebraska College of Law. Her daughter, Victoria, attends the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Sandra had just taken a new job, her husband said, and Brandon Clark had completed culinary school in the past two years and was working at Hy-Vee.
The three, along with Sandra Clark's sister and niece, who drove in another vehicle, were set to return home Sunday.
Buchner said he and his wife were looking forward to being together with family again at Thanksgiving.
The fatal crash is a mystery to the family, which has a strong faith in God, Buchner said. "This strengthens it."
A memorial service for all three is set for Saturday in Lincoln, though its location is pending.
A separate service for Sandra Clark will be held in Phillipsburg on Sunday at the Christian Church. Buchner wasn't sure where or when individual services for Brandon Clark and Baumgarner would be held.