3 Platte County fatalities occur over Memorial Day weekend

May 28, 2019

It was a tragic Memorial Day weekend in the greater Columbus area with three fatalities occurring over the course of two days.

Two Columbus men early Monday morning were pronounced dead at the scene of a single-vehicle crash occurring about 5 miles east of Monroe along Nebraska Highway 22, according to information released by the Platte County Sheriff’s Office.

The driver of the vehicle, 26-year-old Frank Brave Heart, was driving west on the highway in a 2002 Ford Explorer at about 2:15 a.m. when he lost control of the vehicle and went into a north ditch, striking a tree. The lone front-seat passenger was 26-year old Christian Schwager.

Seat belts were in use by both occupants and there was heavy rain in the area at the time of the accident, according to the sheriff’s office. The Platte County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the Monroe Fire and Rescue Department.

Area resident Bobby Sporing during a Monday conversation with The Telegram said that she and her husband were awoken by the commotion – the crash happened near the end of their driveway.

“We heard the boom and it woke us up,” Sporing said. “It was one of those blood-curdling sounds that you just don’t want to wake up to … It was not a good deal last night.”

Less than 24 hours prior on Sunday, 19-year-old Wayne resident Nicholas Rodriguez drowned while attempting to rescue a friend struggling in the waters along the Lake North/Lake Babcock waterway just north of Columbus. The incident happened about 10:30 a.m. and his body was recovered at approximately 5 p.m. from Lake Babcock that afternoon after an extensive search, according to the sheriff’s office. Nearby witnesses were able to rescue the friend Rodriguez was attempting to save.

The Platte County Sheriff’s Office worked in collaboration with Columbus Fire and Rescue, the Platte County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, the Waterloo Fire and Rescue Department and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Sheriff’s Office Lt. Kevin Schuller said that the waterway connecting Lake North and Lake Babcock has been the site of similar incidents throughout the years.

“Our last drowning, if I recall, was right there in the same area – there’s been a few,” Schuller said. “It’s an area where people are always fishing right where the two lakes connect. It’s basically a small area about 30-feet long where both waterways share the water – it’s the only place …

“People congregate there whether they are fishing or doing other activities. And for whatever reason, there have been incidents there in the past.”

Schuller said that the victim and his friend were walking along Lake Babcock’s dividing wall when the friend slipped and fell into the water.

“And it wouldn’t be something that would seem like that big of a deal, but there is a current in there and if you’re not a very good swimmer, and not used to it, it definitely could catch you by surprise, so to speak,” he said.

All three fatalities remain under investigation by the Platte County Sheriff’s Office.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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