ST. AMANT, La. (WAFB) - The road leading into the River Highlands in St. Amant is freshly paved now, but the 9News Investigators have learned the problems with the project could end up affecting other area drivers. Vic Fisher, a local mechanic, says all of the hardened cement caked up under a truck that traveled the road daily could cause major issues.
“It was just astonishing. Right then, we knew we had a problem,” said Fisher.
The company in charge of the project originally told WAFB’s Scottie Hunter that their contractor, R. J. Daigle & Sons, would do whatever they could to make things right. It’s a promise Dave Tutt says has now fallen flat.
"They just didn't want to step up to the plate and take care of the problem that they caused," said Tutt.
Tutt’s son, Darryl, died in April, leaving behind his pickup truck. Now, Tutt is trying to get it back in good shape, but says the company who did the repair work is now making his mission impossible.
"That was my youngest son. He was 41. It's been tough because that was his baby," said Tutt. "It was his truck he loved. He had worked hard to get it and so I took it as a challenge and motivation for me to get it done and to get it done for him."
A handful of invoices show Tutt has already paid more than $1,200 for detail work, but that’s just part of the problem. He took the truck to Fisher Automotive and what the team there found is shocking.
"This is something that I've never seen in my entire life," said Fisher. "I've been doing this for over 30 years and this is crazy. This is the second bucket of just chunks and pieces of concrete, only off of the front end."
From the tires to the motor and even the brake pads, the concrete is locked in.
“I mean, the brake lines are covered, the fuel lines are covered, and now they’re stopped up, so the potential for danger or engine damage or transmission damage, all that is at risk,” said Fisher.
When it’s all said and done, Fisher says the truck owner could be looking at more than $10,000 in damage.
"So that'll be more money going out of our pocket," said Fisher.
When Tutt brought all of the complaints to the contractor to be reimbursed, he says he was told “no deal.” In an email sent to Tutt, a spokesman for the company said all they would cover is the $600 to clean the truck, but they said they are not liable for any damages. Signs posted along the roadway during the construction urged drivers to slow down to 2 mph until the work was finished.
The company also sent out construction notices to drivers. In a statement to WAFB, the CEO with R.J. Daigle & Sons further explained their position.
"Prior to construction, R J Daigle & Sons Contractors notified the residents of River Highlands of the pending construction. Construction signs were installed and notices were given to every home owner asking them to try to avoid traveling through the Portland Cement. The notice clearly details what damage could occur if vehicles exceeded the posted 2.5 miles per hour limit and lastly what to do if they did not follow these instructions. Detailed instructions are provided for the driver to clean the car if instructions were not followed. Therefore, it is our belief that drivers who do not adhere to the notices and signs take responsibility for the damage to their vehicles.
Even though your viewer apparently incurred damage by traveling at speeds in excess of 2.5 MPH through the Portland Cement, we offered a good faith payment of $600.00 to your viewer to assist in cleaning their car. We are a local contractor who has been in business for 41 years and we do everything we can to warn the traveling public of upcoming construction."
“That’s not a good answer,” said Tutt.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Fisher if there was anything drivers could have done to prevent the damage from happening.
“Not in my opinion you know,” said Fisher. “Even at a 2 miles per hour. This stuff is just caked everywhere.”
Tutt calls it ridiculous because the stretch of roadway is the only way in and out of the neighborhood, so avoiding it is impossible. Even if drivers were careful, he believes the company dropped the ball.
"Why didn't you do one side at a time? It seems like that would be the answer on a one-way, dead-end road," said Tutt.
Fisher says regardless of who is at fault, the mounds of hidden concrete were not discovered until after they took the truck apart. It’s why he believes anyone who lived at River Highlands during the construction could be taking a huge gamble with the hidden danger.
“I’ve got concrete in there as big as a bowling ball. I mean, if that falls out and bounces off the road and hits somebody in their windshield, it’s a huge issue. Wrecks or anything could happen,” said Fisher.
Tutt says he has filed a claim with his insurance company and will allow them to handle any further discussions with R. J. Daigle & Sons.