A Gaithersburg family of five has been killed in a fiery crash along a stretch of highway in Nebraska. It happened early Sunday morning on Interstate 80 just 40 miles west Wyoming.
Christopher and Diana Schmidt were moving from Gaithersburg back home to Sacramento, Calif. along with their two boys, three-year-old Samuel and two-year-old Connor. 28-year-old Diana was 30 weeks pregnant with the couple's third son who they were going to name Ethan. Two family dogs and a cat were also making the move.
The couple was driving in two separate cars. Diana and the boys were in a 2007 Toyota Corolla and Chris was in his 2010 Ford Mustang. The couple was using walkie-talkies to communicate.
According to authorities in Nebraska, both cars were stopped waiting for authorities to clean up a fatal wreck involving two semi-trailer trucks, when another tractor trailer slammed Chris' Mustang from behind, pushing the Mustang into the Toyota carrying Diana and the two little boys. The Toyota crashed into a truck in front of it. Both cars burst into flames.
Authorities say it happened in an instant. Brad Baumann, Diana's father, says he takes some comfort knowing that.
"From the impact, to the explosion, there was no way they even knew what happened," he says. "They went instantaneously, hopefully not even feeling anything."
30-year-old Christopher Schmidt was an Air Force veteran who had moved his family to Maryland to take a civil service job with the Department of Energy. They stayed a year, living in a Gaithersburg apartment complex.
Neighbors remembered them fondly.
"She was a very nice lady, the family, everybody," says John Davies III.
"They were really, really nice," adds Ruth Romani.
Brad Baumann says it's devastating to lose the entire family in such a tragic way.
"All five souls going at once," he says.
The driver of the tractor trailer, Josef Slezak, 36, of River Grove, Ill., has been charged with four counts of manslaughter.
A memorial service will be held next Monday in Sacramento. T
The Schmidt Family Memorial Fund has been set up. If you would like to contribute, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.