December 12, 2016

Two Audubon boys died Saturday morning in a crash on Interstate Highway 80 as they rode to a youth basketball tournament in Anita.

The Steckler family was about two miles from the Anita exit about 9:10 a.m. when a westbound semitrailer truck went through the interstate median and collided with the family’s eastbound minivan.

Jameson Steckler, 14, and Gavin Steckler, 11, died in the crash, according to an Iowa State Patrol crash report. A 41-year-old Nebraska man, Rodney Shane Sanborn, who was a passenger in a third vehicle that struck the truck, also died.

The Steckler boys’ younger brother Mason, 10, and their parents Toby and Pam were injured but are recovering. Toby Steckler drove the minivan at the time of the crash.

The truck driver, Marcelas Engram, 31, of Savannah, Georgia, was not injured. It’s unclear what caused his truck to veer into the oncoming lanes of traffic.

Audubon school officials met Sunday to discuss how to help their grieving students today. It’s been a somber one so far, said Brett Gibbs, the superintendent there.

“I don’t think the kids realize how badly we needed them here today,” Gibbs said this morning. “It really does mean a lot for all of us to be together like that. Schools always claim to be a family, and in times like this you realize how true that is.”

A school choir concert scheduled for tonight has been cancelled, but the rest of the week — including two high school basketball games — will go on as planned.

“We’re running the normal schedule, but the teachers have the freedom to do whatever is necessary to help their students cope,” Gibbs said.

The district has established “safe rooms” at each of their two buildings — one in a school board meeting room and the other in an elementary library — where students can go to grieve and talk to counselors.

Others injured in the crash were: Daniel B. Doggett, 50, Kim Doggett, 47, and Haden Doggett, 14, of Gretna, Nebraska; Haden Rast, 14, of Cedar Rapids; and Tyler Sanborn, 14, of Bellevue, Nebraska.

Jameson and Gavin Steckler were in 8th and 6th grade.

“Jamison and Gavin were wonderful students, classmates and teammates who were actively involved in school athletic and music activities,” Gibbs said in a statement. “The Steckler family as a whole are very involved in school, community and church activities touching lives throughout the greater Audubon area.”