BRAITHWAITE — Authorities say the bodies of a man and a woman have been found in a home in the flood-ravaged Louisiana community of Braithwaite.
Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish, said deputies went out to search for the couple Thursday evening after someone reported they had apparently not escaped Braithwaite’s flooding after Hurricane Isaac pummeled the Gulf Coast.
Isaac’s death toll is now at least seven — five in Louisiana and two in Mississippi. It includes a 75-year-old Slidell, La., man who drowned after his SUV fell from a flooded highway up-ramp into 9 feet of water Thursday evening. Mississippi authorities have confirmed that the death Thursday of a 62-year-old woman whose car was hit by a tree has also been attributed to Isaac.
Late Friday, State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said a man whose body was found in a Gretna business structure fire during the onset of Isaac is believed to be the owner of the business according to witnesses.
Browning, in a news release, did not identify the victim and said authorities do not know what caused the fire. The body was released to the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office for a positive identification and an autopsy. The news release gives the following account of the incident:
Early Wednesday, during the landfall of Isaac, the David Crockett Volunteer Fire Company received a fire dispatch to 636 Franklin St. in Gretna.
A large commercial structure consisting of a restaurant with an attached sleeping quarter was found to be fully engulfed with flames. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire, but were forced to retreat because of the dangerous instability of the structure and worsening weather conditions.
Witnesses was reported to firefighters that the owner had been seen on the property hours prior to the fire and had not been seen since that time. Witnesses feared that the business owner may have perished in the fire and subsequent partial collapse of the structure.
The State Fire Marshal USAR team along with State Fire Marshal Investigators deployed to assist Gretna officials. Upon arrival, investigators noted extensive damage to the entire facility with some areas of the facility being unsafe for investigators to enter.
Heavy equipment had to be utilized to excavate portions of the building, while USAR team members worked to eliminate other hazards and to create passageways for investigators who worked until the early Thursday to locate any victims. Initial efforts proved unsuccessful and the extreme weather conditions caused the search to be suspended.
USAR members were able to safely resume their search efforts later and, using a police dog, discovered a human body Thursday afternoon in the rear northeast portion of the collapsed structure after removal of debris. No obvious evidence of foul play was noted during the investigation, the news release says.