A father is without his family, and a small town in Illinois is mourning the loss of four of their community members following a fatal Texas truck crash. The Brokish family—father, mother, and three children—was traveling through Texas when they were involved in the deadly accident that took not only the lives of four of the five – family members, but also the driver of a semi-truck that collided with their minivan.
Officials believe the fatal truck crash was caused by the big rig failing to slow for an accident scene from earlier in the morning.
A failure to stop for slowed or stationary traffic is one of the major causes of truck crashes in the U.S. and safety advocates have long called for the more widespread use of truck collision avoidance technology, which can warn truck drivers of potential collision situations ahead and even automatically cause a tractor-trailer to brake in an emergency situation.
Several Semi Trucks Involved in Crash on I-30
The trouble began on Interstate 30 in the Mount Pleasant area at 7:18 a.m. on the morning of March 23, 2018. A U-Haul truck towing a trailer crashed and rolled over in the eastbound lanes and, while there were no fatalities, traffic built up on the roadway.
The fatal truck accident happened a little more than an hour later, at 8:22 a.m. near Jefferson, when, according to the Mount Pleasant Texas Police Department, “a tractor-trailer rear-ended another tractor-trailer that was pushed into a minivan.”
A news release on Facebook from the police went on to say that the minivan was forced into the rear of a separate semi-truck. The force of the impact sent that semi skidding into a fourth big rig.
Images from the scene show the devastation, with what appears to be the bright-blue cab of a semi-truck mangled beneath the back of a different semi. In another photo, the white cab of a big rig is pictured in mid-air, ramped up over the debris of a vehicle that is barely recognizable as such, but that is likely the 2011 Toyota Sienna minivan that the Brokish family was traveling in.
Though it’s not immediately clear what caused the accident, one thing is certain: The deadly truck crash will require further investigation before all of the answers can be found.
“Traffic had backed up because of the two eastbound lanes were blocked off. The last truck tractor that hit the minivan for whatever reason, the driver did not notice that traffic had stopped,” Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Sylvia Jennings said in an interview with KLTV on March 24, 2018.
Jennings also said that the minivan was following three semi-trucks and hit from behind by another semi-truck.
Mother and Children Pronounced Dead at Scene of Texas Truck Accident; Father Transported to an Area Hospital
Forty-two-year-old Jeffrey Brokish was behind the wheel of the Toyota minivan. His passengers were his wife, 41-year-old Jessica Brokish, and their three children: 9-year-old Finn, 6-year-old Liam, and 2-year-old Amelia, who went by Millie. Everyone in the Brokish family, except Jeffrey, died at the scene.
Jeffrey Brokish was flown to nearby Tyler, Texas, for treatment at the Christus Mother Francis hospital, where he was initially reported in stable but critical condition. He had been released by March 25, 2018, but it was unclear if he remained in Texas or had returned to the family’s home state of Illinois.
Sixty-four-year-old Wanda Gebhart, a Tennessee woman, was driving the semi that started the multi-vehicle accident and was also pronounced dead at the scene. The three other semi-truck drivers, as well as a passenger from one of the trucks, were taken to Titus Regional Medical Center in Mount Pleasant for the treatment of minor injuries.
Family Was on Spring Break Trip When Mount Pleasant Truck Crash Occurred
The Brokish family was in Texas as part of their spring break travels, according to friends.
Back home in Savoy, friends remembered the four deceased members of the family and the positivity they brought to the community. They spoke in interviews with news outlets and at a vigil on March 25, 2018.
Wendy Marck and Amanda Goebel recalled Jessica Brokish, a fellow mom they’d met through a mom’s group at a local church, to WCIA TV.
“She absolutely loved being a mom,” Goebel recounted. “She enjoyed her kids the most.”
At the vigil, memories of the sweetness of the Brokish kids were shared, and Rev. Chuck Moore, the pastor of Savoy’s First Baptist Church, called attention to how challenging the young losses would be to other kids in the community.
“I don’t think the children will ever understand, but I think it is important to be there to comfort and to care,” Rev. Moore said.
GoFundMe For Brokish Family More Than Doubles Goal in Two Days
A fundraising page was set up on March 24, 2018, to raise money to help with the funeral costs for the four members of the Brokish family killed in the Mount Pleasant truck crash and to be used toward any medical expenses Jeffrey Brokish might have. Organizers set a goal of $10,000, but only two days later the GoFundMe page had raised $21,795.