(Lincoln, Nebraska – September 23, 2012)
The trauma and terror of tragedy are nothing new to Levi Cusatis, a 14-year-old student at Lincoln, NE Northeast High School, who lost both his mother and brother Saturday morning in a collision with a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway freight train near Webber, KS as they coordinated field crews harvesting crops.
The shock of death could only serve to recall the horror of less than two years ago, when Levi learned of the death of his father, Bradley Cusatis, Sr., in an accident with an 18-wheeler during an ice storm on Interstate 80 in December, 2010. The tragic accident made Tracy Cusatis (who later resumed her maiden name, Core) a single mother of five.
But Saturday’s tragedy, which also killed Levi’s oldest brother, Bradley Cusatis, Jr., 22, officially made Levi an orphan. Brad, Jr., who was a highly-successful wrestler at Beatrice High School, where he placed second in the state in his weight class, had assumed the role of father-figure for his youngest sibling as the two worked the family ranch in Beatrice, NE, and then branched out to work summer jobs at ranches in Kansas, Colorado and Oklahoma. Now, Levi has lost both parents as well as his pseudo male mentor.
The northbound 99-car BNSF train struck the pair’s 2002 Suzuki at a dangerous, unguarded Jewell County, KS crossing, protected only by passive signage, on the passenger side, killing Brad, Jr. instantly, while his mother was airlifted to a hospital in Superior, NE, but was pronounced dead on arrival.
The tragedy will uproot Levi again, as he will be sent to live with his Aunt Tessa in Burr Oak, KS.
“I just hope this (the move) is it for him for a long time,” said Jane Cotton-Green, who had been Levi’s English teacher at Mickie Middle School in Lincoln. “He doesn’t need any more in his life. He’s had all the despair that he needs right now.”