Photo showcase: Car runs into thrift shop at 42nd and Leavenworth Streets
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UPDATE: Leavenworth Street's eastbound lanes one block west of 42nd Street have been closed. Westbound lanes have been converted to two-way traffic.
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Dozens of police officers, firefighters, city workers and utility employees invested 18 hours into the grim task of recovering two bodies.
The bodies, inside a Leavenworth Street thrift store that had been made structurally unsafe by the force of a car crash, couldn't be reached. One, in fact, went undetected for about 14 hours.
Workers used a bomb-squad robot to remove debris and view the scene.
Heavy machinery clawed away debris.
And finally a trench box, or large structure to protect workers if the sagging roof fell, helped rescue personnel get to the bodies Saturday afternoon.
Police identified the dead men as driver Dustin R. Hollenbeck, 24, and passenger Dylan J. Thompson, 20, both of Omaha. Neither man had been using a seat belt.
The driver lost control of the car as it barreled north on 42nd Street, then slid and smashed through the wall of the New 2 You thrift store. Hollenbeck and Thompson were both ejected before the car bounced off the wall or a beam and back onto the street.
Traffic Sgt. Jason Menning said he didn't know how fast the car was traveling.
“All I can say is reckless,” Menning said. “It's extremely high speed. This isn't a 30- or 40-mile-an-hour accident.”
He said the car, a 1997 Buick Park Avenue, crossed two southbound lanes and struck a fire hydrant before slamming into the thrift store.
The crash occurred Friday about 9:15 p.m., and rescue workers removed the bodies about 3:15 p.m. Saturday.
The wreck left a massive hole in the wall and the roof bowed. Authorities feared the roof would collapse and for hours didn't allow anyone — even rescuers — inside the building, through which rubble and bricks were strewn.
“This is incredibly dangerous right now,” Officer James Shade said Saturday. “They deemed this completely unsafe.”
Scott Goff, owner of New 2 You, said after talking with the structural engineer that he hoped to eventually remove what he can.
Goff said the engineer told him the building would be stabilized and boarded up within the next couple of days. The bowing roof will have to be taken down.
Goff said he opened the shop in November. It contains furniture, antiques, collectibles, guitars, drums, photos, art and other items.
“We invested lots of time and money,” Goff said, “and we've lost it all.”
Omaha police used a bomb squad robot Friday night to verify that one victim was dead. Then family members told police Saturday morning they were sure a second man, who they said had been with the first, was inside the building as well.
Police used a piece of heavy machinery to claw at the rubble inside the building, at 4201 Leavenworth St., and the robot was deployed again. It was late morning before Shade confirmed that a second victim had perished inside and been found.
At one point about 40 family members stood or sat on a bench on the northeast corner, across from the accident scene, and waited. Some hugged each other.
Numerous cars and trucks from the Omaha Police Department, Omaha Fire Department, Omaha Public Works Department and utility companies were at the scene, as were dozens of police officers, rescue squad members and other workers.
Yellow caution tape prevented vehicles and spectators from getting close. Heavy trucks were positioned in front of the scene to prevent gawking.
Shade said workers secured a billboard and a chimney on or near the roof so they wouldn't fall in if the roof collapsed.
Portions of 42nd and Leavenworth Streets remained closed late Saturday as city officials worked to secure the area.
Menning said public works employees were installing fencing around the crash scene to allow for the reopening of some traffic lanes. He said traffic message boards also had been installed in the area.