21 vehicles involved in pileup
DONALDSONVILLE — Thick fog played a major role in a 21-vehicle pileup Tuesday morning on La. 1 north of Donaldsonville that left one man dead and the road closed for eight hours while the vehicles were removed and investigators tried to determine what happened, State Police said.
Donald L. Jenkins, 62, of Plaquemine, was killed in what State Police said were three separate accidents that occurred around 5 a.m. in early morning darkness and thick fog next to freshly harvested sugar-cane fields on both sides of the highway.
“We’re not sure of the exact cause of it, but weather is definitely going to be a factor. The fog was very heavy this morning,” Trooper First Class Jared Sandifer said. “I drove there at 7 o’clock this morning and it was still extremely foggy.”
In the initial investigation by State Police, investigators determined the first crash, which involved three vehicles, occurred as each of them were traveling south on La. 1, Sandifer said in a news release.
In the front, Juan Carlos Vera Torres, 23, was driving a sugar-cane truck. Behind him, Michael Gouthier, 56, of Donaldsonville, was driving a 2006 Hyundai Accent, and behind Gouthier, Coy Leonard, 29, of White Castle, was driving a 2008 Chevrolet Equinox, Sandifer said.
Because of heavy fog, Torres slowed the sugar-cane truck to a stop in the road, and it was struck in the rear by the Hyundai, which was then struck in the rear by the Equinox, Sandifer said. None of the drivers in this crash suffered serious injuries, he said.
The second crash, in which Jenkins was killed, involved 12 vehicles and happened shortly after the first crash, which was a contributing factor in the second accident, Sandifer said.
Jenkins was driving a 1991 Acura Integra south behind a sugar-cane truck driven by Nestali Hernandez, 26, of White Castle.
Because of heavy fog and the crash that had happened in front of him, Hernandez slowed his truck to a stop, and Jenkins’ Acura hit t he rear of the truck. The impact caused a chain reaction crash involving 10 more vehicles, Sandifer said.
No other drivers in this crash suffered serious injuries, he said.
Jenkins was wearing a seat belt, Sandifer said. Although impairment is not considered to be a factor in the crash, a toxicology sample was taken from Jenkins and submitted to the State Police lab for analysis.
Impairment isn’t suspected on the part of any of the other drivers, either, Sandifer said. Dense fog is considered to have been the main factor in the pileup, he said.
The third crash happened shortly after the second one and involved six vehicles, again all traveling south on the highway, Sandifer said.
Patrick Settoon, 60, of White Castle, was driving a 2008 Ford pickup and came to a stop because of the fog and the wrecks in front of him.
Settoon told police he left his truck and tried to warn oncoming traffic of the crash ahead.
His truck was struck by a 1996 Toyota Corolla driven by Lynn Landry, 59, of White Castle, Sandifer said. The wreck caused a chain-reaction crash, involving four more vehicles behind it. Landry was cited for driving too fast for roadway conditions, Sandifer said.
Four of the 21 vehicles involved in the wrecks were sugar-cane trucks, empty at the time, The Associated Press reported.
This time of year, La. 1 is heavily traveled by trucks hauling sugar cane to area refineries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.