MILWAUKEE — A good Samaritan, killed while stopped to help at a crash scene on I-94.
Jason Smeltzer saw a truck lose control on westbound lanes of I-94 in Jefferson County last Wednesday. He drove by and could have kept going, but turned around to help.
Unfortunately, that act of kindness ended up being the last act of his life.
Less than a week later, the pain for three families still is fresh. Just before 4 a.m. on Aug. 18, a truck lost control and crashed. A second vehicle hit that truck’s trailer shortly after.
Smeltzer passed by, backtracked, and stopped to help. Soon after, Jefferson County sheriff's deputies said he and two other drivers were hit and killed by a fourth vehicle. All victims were outside of the vehicles during the time of the crash.
“Jason was one of those genuinely good-hearted people that helped out if he could,” said Janee Pederson, Smeltzer’s niece.
Pederson said she misses her uncle dearly. He was a father, gone in an instant. Just 41 years old.
“We’re all completely devastated. You can’t prepare yourself for something like this,” she said.
Smeltzer was from the Eau Clare area on the western end of the state. It's where Pederson travels to visit family.
Wednesday she’ll have to take that same route Smeltzer took to stay goodbye to the uncle she loved so much.
“Will you consider another route?” TMJ4's Tony Atkins asked.
“I thought about it a little bit, but I think this first time,” Pederson said. “I have some urge to say goodbye. Where it happened. On my way to say goodbye at the actual funeral.”
Two others Smeltzer was trying to help, Harold Ostrander and Thomas Meier, were all killed. Their deaths mark three of just 13 fatalities in the Jefferson County stretch of I-94 in the past 10 years.
It’s unexpected news about someone known for helping others in their time of need.
“I don’t think any of us was surprised to hear he was helping someone out. It was just - you don’t expect a tragedy to come out of that,” Pederson said.
The family set up a GoFundMe to help with funeral costs. Any additional aid they say will go towards his two kids left behind, ages 11 and 13.