BROKEN BOW - An Omaha pharmacist and his two young daughters on their way to a family Christmas in Broken Bow were killed Saturday afternoon in an accident just west of Ansley.
Jeff Podraza, 44, of Omaha and his daughters Jordyn, 12, and Taylor, 10, died when the Chevy Avalanche he was driving crossed the centerline at about 2:45 p.m. and struck a semitrailer truck driven by Mike Conley of Broken Bow.
According to Jaci Peterson of Broken Bow, Podraza's aunt, the family became concerned when he and the girls didn't show up for the celebration and they couldn't be reached by cell phone.
"All we know is that the Podraza vehicle was westbound and, for whatever reason, drove left of center and was struck by Conley," Sgt. Bob Rose the Nebraska State Patrol said Sunday.
The Podraza vehicle caught on fire, and the girls were trapped inside, Rose said. When he arrived on the scene, Podraza's body was lying on the pavement. Rose said he was unsure if Podraza had been thrown from the vehicle or someone on the scene before him had pulled him from the vehicle.
Conley wasn't seriously injured, Rose said.
"We don't think it was weather-related. We don't know why he crossed the center line," Rose said. "The accident is still under investigation. Hopefully, we will find an answer."
Traci Ahlbrandt of Omaha was Jeff Podraza's friend. She went to pharmacy school with him, interned at the same store with Podraza and worked with him at Walgreen's.
"He was always full of life. Always. And always, smiling. He was smitten with his daughters," she said.
In the last 19 months, there have been at least two other accidents with fatalities on the 17-mile stretch of road between Ansley and Broken Bow.
On May 30, 2009, three members of the Thad and Tricia Ita family of Rockville were killed. On Oct. 22, 2009, a weather-related accident killed 15-year-old Travis Slingsby of Broken Bow on his way to school in Ansley.