DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - Highway 16 is a road 57-year-old James Hughes travels every day to get to his job at the LSU fire and training facility. He drives the road on his motorcycle from his home in Watson to get to the Interstate and has never given his wife any reason to worry.
That changed at 5:35 a.m. on Monday, July 13.
"I'll never forget that time," said Mary Hughes. "My life flashed before my eyes because I thought he was gone."
James had been in a serious crash. A vehicle ran him off the road and left him lying on the roadway.
"It was dark, and if someone had not been paying attention, he could have been hit by a car," said Melissa Gray, a witness who was at the scene of the crash. "I was shocked by the number of cars that just kept driving. Only one other car stopped to help."
Thankfully, Melissa is a Licensed Practical Nurse. She and her family were on their way back from Georgia to their home in San Antonio when they decided to make a pit stop.
"We just turned out of the gas station and were going to get back on the interstate," Melissa recalled. "We were actually going in the opposite direction to another gas station, but I decided to go to this one instead."
It was a life-saving decision.
"He was on our left. I saw him as soon as we pulled out," Melissa said. "He was in the turning lane and I just told my husband to stop the car and I jumped out and ran over to him."
James was conscious, but badly injured. His ribs and clavicle were broken on his left side, he fractured part of his spine, and had a punctured lung.
"He told me to call his wife, so I did," Melissa explained.
The first call went unanswered. Mary can joke about it now.
"I remember thinking to myself, 'gosh, bill collectors shouldn't be calling this early,' because I don't answer numbers I don't know," she said with a laugh. "I answered the second call, and that's when she told me what happened."
Melissa was calm, but Mary knew her husband was in bad shape. She feared she would show up to find him dead.
"In my mind, I thought he was gone," she said. "She just told me I needed to get to the scene immediately."
When emergency responders arrived, Melissa was able to give them all the information needed to make sure James got quick and immediate attention. More importantly, she helped keep him calm while he waited for his wife to arrive.
"I just held his hand until they loaded him up and took him away," Melissa said.
The only information she couldn't provide, however, was related to the vehicle that caused this to happen.
"A witness saw a white Dodge Challenger," Mary said. "I've gone out to that intersection for the past 7 days at the same time looking for a vehicle like that."
Investigators with the Denham Springs Police Department say the vehicle got on I-10 headed westbound, but that's all they know, for now.
If you know anything that can help investigators locate the vehicle responsible for the crash, call Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-STOP (7867).