Morrill County, NE – Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) Trooper Jerry Smith died in the line of duty on Thursday, when an oncoming pickup crossed the center line and slammed into his patrol car.
The devastating collision occurred at approximately 7:45 a.m., as Trooper Smith was traveling on Highway 26, KSNB reported.
An oncoming pickup crossed into his lane when the driver swerved to avoid slamming into the back of a vehicle that was waiting to make a left-hand turn, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
The pickup driver then collided with Trooper Smith head-on, KSNB reported.
The 51-year-old trooper died at the scene.
The driver of the pickup was ejected from his vehicle by the impact, and also died at the scene.
The driver of the car that was waiting to turn was not injured in the collision.
The Morrill County Sheriff’s Office and the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Office are handling the ongoing investigation into the fatal crash, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
“This is a tragic day for the Nebraska State Patrol,” NSP Superintendent Colonel John Bolduc said on Thursday, according to KSNB. “A family has lost a husband and a father. Our troopers have lost a colleague and a friend. Our state has lost a true public servant.”
Trooper Smith joined NSP in 2014, following a 25-year career in the U.S. Army.
The highly-decorated soldier completed two tours of combat in Iraq, and received a multitude of commendations, including a Bronze Star.
He graduated from the NSP’s Basic Recruit Camp at the age of 47, and is believed to be the oldest recruit to successfully complete the training program, KSNB reported.
“That demonstrated a willpower beyond what you’ll see in most people,” NSP Troop E Commander Captain Kurt Von Minden said, according to the Omaha World-Herald. “Jerry led a life of dedication, service and integrity. There is no finer example of what a trooper should be.”
He was assigned to the NSP Troop E in Scottsbluff, where he served until his tragic death, WMTV reported.
Trooper Smith was “a friend and mentor” to all of his fellow officers, and “used his long career in the military [to] lead them informally every day,” Capt. Von Minden added, according to KSNB.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has ordered that U.S. and State flags be lowered to half-staff in honor of Trooper Smith’s service.
“Our state troopers selflessly put their lives on the line every day,” Ricketts said. “[We] mourn the passing of Trooper Smith, and send our deepest condolences to his family…We ask all Nebraskans to join us in praying for his family and community as we honor Trooper Smith’s dedicated service and sacrifice.”
Trooper Smith leaves behind his wife and his two adult children.
“Trooper Smith was doing what he did every day, diligently patrolling Nebraska’s roadways,” Col. Bolduc said, according to KSNB. “This is a sad reminder of the dangers our law enforcement professionals face daily. Our prayers are with Trooper Smith’s family.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Jerry Smith, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.