A Minneapolis couple and their three young children were killed in a collision in Nebraska on their way to a final round of training before moving to Japan to work as Christian missionaries.
Jamison and Kathryne Pals, both 29, died along with their children when a semitrailer truck rear-ended their minivan just before noon Sunday on Interstate 80 in a construction zone near Brule. Three-year-old Ezra, 23-month-old Violet and 2-month-old Calvin died at the scene with their parents.
The force of the impact pushed the family’s van into three other westbound vehicles. Both the van and the truck burst into flames.
The truck driver, Tony A. Weekly, 53, of Baker, Fla., was treated at the Sedgewick County Hospital in Julesburg, Colo., and released. He was then taken to the Keith County jail in Ogallala, Neb., and booked on five felony counts of vehicular homicide.
The couple — who met at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, an evangelical Christian college in Roseville — in recent months had sold most of their belongings in preparation for the move, which was expected to happen in late October.
“They were just going to travel with one big backpack for each of them,” said Kathy Pals, Jamison’s mother, who lives in Hugo with his father, Rick.
The young family had been planning the move for a couple of years and made multiple treks to Littleton, Colo., for training with WorldVenture, a Christian mission agency. They tracked their preparations on a blog called joyofjapan.org, where they wrote expansively about their faith and family.
“We want Jesus Christ for Japan. That’s what ‘the joy of Japan’ really means,” Jamison wrote.
The couple blogged about how they had met and had dated on and off, became best friends and decided to marry. A point of hesitation in the relationship was Kathryne’s uncertainty about the missionary work that so strongly called to Jamison for almost a decade.
Kathryne, the fifth of Gordon and Nancy Engel’s six children, graduated from West Lutheran High School in Plymouth. Pals, the third of four sons, graduated in 2005 from Centennial High School in Circle Pines.
In shock on Monday, both sides of the family said their faith held them. “When we grieve, we know that we have hope to see them again,” Nancy Engel said.
Kathy Pals said she’d been told that Weekly had been distracted before the crash, which occurred in a construction zone. She was saddened to hear that he had been charged, saying that it would be hard enough for him to live with he’d done.