Hypothermia likely killed Tecumseh farmer who left vehicle during snowstorm

A farmer from Tecumseh, Nebraska, died last weekend during the snowstorm that hit southeast Nebraska.

LeRoy Holthus, 78, was reported missing Sunday after his vehicle left the road and became stuck in the ditch, Johnson County Attorney Rick Smith said Friday.

When a neighbor found his vehicle, Holthus was not inside.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, with the help of a search and rescue dog from the Otoe County Sheriff’s Office, tried to find him Sunday night, but their efforts were thwarted by the blowing snow and darkness.

On Monday morning, the Johnson County Roads Department assisted the Sheriff’s Office in clearing large drifts of snow in further attempts to find Holthus, Smith said.

Highway Superintendent Matt Schaardt found Holthus’ body about 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Smith requested an autopsy. Final results were not available, he said, but the pathologist indicated that Holthus likely died of hypothermia.

The Nebraska State Patrol reminded motorists traveling in extreme weather conditions to stay in their vehicles if they become stranded. Freezing temperatures can be life-threatening.

In addition, if a vehicle becomes stuck, drivers should run the motor sparingly and keep a window cracked to prevent a buildup of carbon monoxide.

A red flag or bandana should be attached to the outside of the vehicle to signal for help, the patrol said.