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'It's too young to die': 5 Lincoln residents, 1 Omaha man identified as victims in car crash

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Five Lincoln residents and an Omaha man have been identified as those killed early Sunday morning in what Lincoln Police officials called "the worst crash in Lincoln in recent memory."

Johnathon Kurth, a 26-year-old Lincoln man, was driving his Honda Accord east on Randolph Street near 56th Street when the vehicle struck the curb, left the street and hit a mailbox before crashing into a tree shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday, according to the investigator's crash report filed in the incident.

Kurth, along with four passengers, died at the scene. Those pronounced dead at 5630 Randolph St. were Octavias Farr, 21, of Lincoln; Benjamin Lenagh, 23, of Omaha; Jonathan Koch, 22, of Lincoln; and Nicholas Bisesi, 22, of Lincoln.

Lincoln Fire and Rescue crews extricated 24-year-old Cassie Brenner from the wreckage and rushed her to a hospital, but the Lincoln woman died late Sunday morning.

"I've been with this department for 25 years and can't remember anything as horrible," Assistant Lincoln Police Chief Michon Morrow said Sunday.

Bisesi, Lenagh, Koch and Brenner were all in the back seat of the Accord, according to the crash report.

None of them were wearing a seat belt when the Honda careened off the street at an "unknown high rate of speed," according to the crash report. The posted speed limit is 25 mph on Randolph Street.

Both Kurth and Farr, the front-seat passenger, were belted in, according to the report.

Much about what led up to the crash remains unclear, even to investigators, who, according to the crash report, don't know exactly how fast the Accord was going, whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash, whether the driver was distracted or whether the vehicle malfunctioned.

It took two tow trucks to pull the car from the tree Sunday morning, said Brad Bartak, who owns the house and yard where the crash occurred and who was the first person on the scene Sunday morning.

He used a rock to break the back window of the car, but the engine soon caught fire. He used a garden hose to try to contain the fire, while another neighbor attempted to help until the fire department arrived.

"We've been in this house since 1971 and this is probably the worst crash we've ever had," he said, recalling two other instances where cars had crashed into nearby front yards.

In the hours since the crash, Bartak's tree has transformed into a memorial for the victims, with flowers, candles and personal effects around the tree's base. Family members held a vigil Sunday night, and another few dozen people gathered around the tree again Monday morning, Bartak said.

Bartak has greeted family members and onlookers who approach the crash site. Friends of one victim dropped off a handwritten note thanking him for his efforts Sunday morning, and for his kindness in the hours since.

Without introducing herself, the mother of another victim hugged Bartak at the crash site Monday morning as he talked with his neighbor, 77-year-old Rauf Aliovsavzade, who emerged from his house to the sound of the crash Sunday morning and has watched the tragic aftermath unfold on Randolph Street, where new mourners keep arriving.

"To die at 20 years old, 21, 22 years old — it's too young to die," Aliovsavzade said. "It's not right."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or awegley@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @andrewwegley

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Breaking news reporter

A Kansas City, Missouri, native, Andrew Wegley joined the Journal Star as breaking news reporter after graduating from Northwest Missouri State University in May 2021.

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