Nebraska's oil and cattle industries are reeling from the loss of two key leaders in a fiery traffic collision during a snowstorm in the Panhandle.
Bruce Evertson, 64, of Kimball, and Robin Coulter-Lapaseotes, 56, of Bridgeport, were killed Tuesday.
Evertson was chief executive officer of Kimball-based Evertson Cos., an international oil and gas operation that was Nebraska's largest oil producer for a number of years.
Coulter-Lapaseotes was the owner and operator of a ranch and cattle-feeding operation in the Pumpkin Creek valley southwest of Bridgeport. She was a board member of Nebraska Cattlemen.
Their deaths will long be felt in their home communities, friends and family members said.
“Bruce was the largest producer of oil in the Panhandle,'' said Bill Sydow, executive director of the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in Sidney. “He had excellent business sense. He was an entrepreneur.''
Coulter-Lapaseotes was the third generation of her family to take a leadership role in Nebraska Cattlemen.
“Robin was passionate about the cattle industry and very knowledgeable,” said Barb Cooksley of Anselmo, a rancher and vice president of Nebraska Cattlemen. “She was very willing to do her part.''
Evertson and Coulter-Lapaseotes were driving east on Nebraska Highway 88, also known as Pumpkin Creek Road, when the accident occurred about 2:30 p.m. two miles west of the unincorporated community of Redington. They apparently were heading to Bridgeport from the Coulter Ranch. The road was at least partially covered with ice and snow, and blowing snow obscured visibility, according to the Nebraska State Patrol.
Evertson's Cadillac Escalade collided with a westbound Dobrinski Trucking semitrailer truck hauling distillers grains, a cereal byproduct of ethanol production used in livestock rations. Both vehicles burst into flames, the patrol said. The collision closed the highway for several hours.
Truck driver Dennis Dobrinski, 56, of Bridgeport, was taken to Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff with injuries that were not life-threatening.
All were wearing seat belts. The patrol's investigation continued Wednesday.
Evertson and Coulter-Lapaseotes shared business dealings. Evertson searched for oil on thousands of acres of leased Coulter-Lapaseotes land in recent years, Sydow said.
He also owned several farms and ranches in the Panhandle, including operations in Deuel and Garden Counties.
Evertson was a Kimball native and a Golden Gloves boxer in his youth. After high school, he went to work in the region's oil fields as a roughneck. In 1974 he started a service company that worked on wells across western Nebraska and the Rocky Mountain region.
He expanded into oil production in 1980 and eventually developed several exploration and production companies. Evertson rigs operate in Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, New Mexico, California and Illinois, as well as in Colombia and Venezuela.
Sydow said Evertson was widely known for finding ways for his employees and contract workers to purchase an interest in his oil wells.
“It helped them make a living, and he felt that if you were vested in the operation, you'd perform better,'' Sydow said.
Sydow said Evertson quietly contributed to organizations and facilities in Kimball.
Survivors include his wife, Darla; son, Ed Evertson of Chappell, Neb.; daughter, Julie Wamsley of Sidney; and four grandchildren.
Coulter-Lapaseotes, a native of Bridgeport, grew up in a ranch family that raised registered Hereford cattle. Her grandfather Bern Coulter and father, Cal Coulter, were presidents of the Nebraska Stock Growers Association, a forerunner of Nebraska Cattlemen.
After receiving a degree in animal science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she returned to Bridgeport to work for her father. She married Bridgeport cattle feeder Pete Lapaseotes in 1984 and bought her parents' ranch about 20 years ago. She and her husband ran their operations separately.
“Robin took the bull by the horns,'' brother Lewis Coulter of Bridgeport said.
In addition to her husband and parents, Coulter-Lapaseotes is survived by son Costa Lapaseotes of Chicago, daughters Nicole Dean and Cassie Lapaseotes, both of Bridgeport, and a grandson.