LIVINGSTON, La. (WVUE) - Each passing car sent the smell of singed earth and burnt rubber wafting through the air on Interstate 12 in Livingston Parish Saturday evening (Sept. 14), where bits of wreckage buried beneath the charred ground were all that was left of a deadly crash from the day before.
Hammond Resident Ronald Allen said he wasn’t there at the time of the crash, Friday but he heard about it from a friend.
“I’m definitely glad I wasn’t part of it,” Allen said. “[My friend] gave up because the traffic was backed up on 190 and 1040 all the way to Hammond,190 was actually backed up to 51.”
Allen stopped by the scene, not far from where State Police shut down the westbound lanes of I-12 as they investigated the fatal, fiery crash.
According to police, initial reports indicate a tractor trailer and an SUV were headed eastbound on I-12 when the truck hit the SUV, sending both vehicles across the median and into oncoming traffic.
That’s when a westbound tractor trailer hit the other, both bursting into flames, killing their drivers. The driver of the SUV went to the hospital for moderate injuries, but both truck drivers were pronounced dead on the scene.
Baltimore trucker Wayne Green was on a mandatory stop in Hammond Saturday.
“What could’ve possible caused this vehicle to get in an accident like that?” Green wondered. “I’m on a 10 hour break. I’m supposed to be in my truck getting some rest. Whether I’m in my truck or sitting here, I can’t sleep. So, then, one, two o’clock in the morning, I have to start driving.”
Green admitted the pressure to deliver and the rules truckers must follow can lead to poor decisions. But, in his experience, Green said he’s found fatigue and attitude cause most crashes.
“I ride up and down the road every day and truck drivers, as well as four-wheelers, are rushing down the highway for no purpose at all, cutting in and out of each other," Green said. “That’s unnecessary driving.”
Green said, in his decades-long trucking career, he’s never had an accident.
“I’ve been doing this for 28 years now so, if I can’t make it, I’m going to stop,” he said. “Because I’m not going to hurt myself, or anybody else, on the road trying to force myself to stay awake to get down the highway.”
Allen said he believes, with their training and experience, truckers are some of the safest drivers on the road.
“My wife doesn’t drive on the interstate because of 18-wheelers, but we all need them because everything we use has been in an 18-wheeler at least twice,” he said.
What worries him most, Allen said, is what wasn’t at the scene.
“Cable fences to prevent vehicles from going all the way across the center of oncoming traffic when there’s an accident,” Allen said. “That might’ve saved a life.”
A representative for the Department of Transportation and Development said a project to install those types of barricades in this area is in the works and should begin this year. The spokesman said the barriers are life-savers and they would put them across the state, if there was the funding for it.
The project in that multi-mile stretch in Livingston Parish is estimated to cost up to $5 million, the spokesman said, adding information like crash data and traffic volume helps them to determine where to install the barricades.
State police said they are still investigating the cause of the crash, including standard toxicology tests.