JPSO finds man’s body in lake, near where truck fell off Causeway

A man’s body pulled from Lake Pontchartrain on Tuesday morning is believed to be that of the driver of a pickup that plunged into the water from the southbound causeway span Monday afternoon.

Friends of the man identified him as Miguel Rodriguez, 19, of Metairie.

Authorities on Tuesday declined to confirm the identity until the man’s mother, who lives in South America, could arrive in the United States and officially identify him.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office divers found the body about 9 a.m. near the spot where the truck went into the water, said Col. John Fortunato, a sheriff’s spokesman.

The truck went off the southbound bridge about 2½ miles from the south shore about 4 p.m. Monday.

Eyewitnesses said the truck, possibly a Ford F-250, rolled over a railing and dropped into the water after it hit barrier walls on both sides of the span, said Carlton Dufrechou, general manager of the causeway.

The first witnesses to the crash reported a man surfaced in the lake, said he was OK and appeared to be trying to take off his shoes or boots, Dufrechou said. Within about 20 seconds, though, the man went under and did not resurface. The water near the scene of the accident is about 12 to 14 feet deep.

Causeway police were on the scene in about two minutes but could not locate the man, Dufrechou said.

A Coast Guard boat and helicopter joined the search.

The northbound span was closed for about 45 minutes and the southbound span for a little less than two hours.

It was not immediately clear what led to the accident.

An autopsy had not been completed Tuesday afternoon.

Mali Moran, a former girlfriend of Rodriguez, said he was coming back from a construction job on the north shore when the accident happened.

Rodriguez graduated earlier this year from Grace King High School and had been working in construction since then, Moran said. “He was an angel,” she said. “That’s the only way to describe him.”

Monday’s accident was the third time this year a vehicle has plunged off the southbound bridge.

A dump truck caught fire Feb. 6 and fell over the side, about 4½ miles away from the south shore.

Authorities found the body of the driver, Christopher Sergeant, 39, two days later.

On May 23 a Folsom man’s car fell into the water about 8 miles from the north shore when another driver swerved and hit the car, knocking it off the bridge.

Matthew Myer, 24, was able to escape from his car and was pulled to safety minutes later.