Six die from I-10 van crash

Michael Tortorich and Wade McIntyre

PRAIRIEVILLE – Five people were killed and ten critically injured Saturday when a minivan collided with another vehicle on Interstate 10 inside the Ascension Parish line.

A sixth person, 12-year-old Ariel Hines of Harvey, was pronounced dead just after noon Monday by doctors at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge, according to Louisiana State Police spokesman Trooper Russell Graham.

The driver of the 2000 GMC Safari minivan, 38-year-old Mona Hines, was restrained, but was partially ejected and pronounced dead at the scene, according to Graham.

Four children, who were unrestrained in the back seats, were also pronounced dead at the scene. Police identified the children as 2-year-old Ricky Hines Jr., 12-year-old Lachante “Mia” Floyd, 14-year-old Edward Barnes and 14-year-old Ashley Hines.

Floyd was a sixth-grade student at the Iberville Parish Math, Science and Arts Academy in Plaquemine.

“The faculty, staff, and students extend their sincere condolences to the friends and family of Lachante ‘Mia’ Floyd. She was a 3.0 student. She will be deeply missed by many,” Iberville Parish School Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne said.

Stacey Hines, 28, was properly restrained and was transported to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge. Police said Saturday she was in stable condition.

Initially, seven of the children who survived were listed in critical condition, while two sustained moderate injuries and were considered stable, Graham said.

The ages of the surviving children ranges from 6 months to 14 years old. Their names were not released.

Prarieville Fire Department first responders were first to reach the scene along with the St. George Fire Department from Baton Rouge.

Two Prairieville fire engines and a rescue vehicle responded after receiving an 11:47 a.m. rollover accident call with occupants ejected, according to Assistant Prairieville Fire Chief Raymond Poche.

He said there were bodies on the ground from the point where the van left the road to the spot where it stopped in the median.

“It is probably the worst fatality accident I’ve ever had to work, and I’ve been doing it for 30 years,” he said Monday.

Prairieville responders initiated patient care at the scene, and one of the department fireman flew with three of the kids who were taken by Air Med to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, Poche said.

All of the transport of victims was done quickly, followed by cleaning up of debris, the calling of Parish Coroner Dr. John Fraiche, and pick up of the bodies by Ourso Funeral Home, he said.

“We did not clear the scene until 2:18 p.m. when the last unit left for Prairieville,” Poche said.

First responders received welcomed assistance from three doctors who stopped at the scene of the accident to aid the victims, he said.

“I don’t know where they came from but a lot of medically trained people stopped to help,” Poche said.

Graham told the Citizen Monday morning that the State Police investigation will be complete once the toxicology results are done.

Alcohol is not suspected in the accident, he said.

All of the occupants of the vehicle are from Harvey in the New Orleans area.

The crash occurred just before noon on Interstate 10 east of Hwy. 928, according to police.

The minivan was traveling west on the interstate when the driver swerved to the left and side-swiped a refrigerated box truck, Graham said.

The vehicle then ran off of the roadway to the left into the media, overturned several times and came to a rest in an upright position on the eastbound lanes of the interstate, he said.

During a preliminary investigation, Graham said troopers found that the left tire of the minivan blew out prior to the crash.

The pizza box truck received minor damage and the driver was not injured, Graham said.

Troopers and Ascension Parish deputies worked together to get the roadway cleared while first responders from Prairieville and St. George Fire, Acadian Ambulance and Baton Rouge EMS tended to the injured, Graham said.

Interstate 10 was closed in both directions for about one hour before authorities were able to clear one lane for travel in each direction, he said. Soon after, both lanes were opened to traffic.

“We had four beautiful children in the middle of the interstate covered in a tarp,” Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley told WAFB-TV at the scene.

The sheriff’s office called its department chaplain to the scene after the injured were removed from the scene, Poche said. Surrounding the chaplain, responders and rescue personnel huddled together on the interstate in prayer.

Graham emphasized the importance of seatbelts, as in two days unrestrained passengers were ejected and killed in separate crashes in Troop A’s greater Baton Rouge area.

“Statistics show that the safest place to be during a vehicle crash is inside the vehicle,” Graham said. “The only way to ensure that you remain inside the vehicle is to be properly restrained.”

Louisiana state law now requires seat belt or child restraint use in every position in the vehicle, Graham said.

Troopers have spent the first two months after the law took effect to educate the public about the new law and are strictly enforcing the law in an attempt to decrease serious injuries and deaths caused by vehicle crashes, he said.