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THE INVESTIGATORS: Family takes aim at city of BR, DOTD after loved one dies near flooded underpass

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 3:29 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2021 at 5:19 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A family is taking aim at one of the usual problem spots that frequently takes on water in Baton Rouge after their loved one died during flash flooding in May 2021 along Bluebonnet Boulevard.

The family hopes their efforts will prevent something like that from happening again while also bringing them some closure.

Justin Thompson was the glue that held his family together but his brother said losing him tragically back in May is something they are still trying to cope with. The 33-year-old’s car got swept away.

“He was what a man should be. He was more than a brother, more than a son, and more than a husband,” said Sean Thompson. “I know I’m not supposed to question God but I can question why there wasn’t nothing to stop him from driving into that lake that he drove into.”

RELATED: Coroner identifies man found dead in flooded vehicle on Bluebonnet Blvd underpass

After the water went down, several cars were piled up in that stretch of roadway and unfortunately, Thompson was unable to make it out of one of the cars.

Attorney Shannon Battiste represents the family and said he knows who’s responsible.

“So, how long is it going to take to fix it?” questioned Battiste. “How many more people have to die and how many more people have to lose property by way of cars or whatever else someone has in their car before someone decides to fix it?”

The lawsuit blames the city and DOTD for what happened, stating that there was nothing to warn drivers about the danger lurking at the underpass. Battiste added flashers or some kind of permanent barrier needs to be put in place as soon as possible.

“There was like 13 or 14 cars that were in the water you know why? Because it was pitch black and people couldn’t see. So, imagine if all those people would have died?” asked Battiste

It’s not the first time that extreme flooding has caused similar issues in Baton Rouge. Two years ago, it was a similar scene at the Acadian Thruway underpass. WAFB asked the city and DOTD, at the time, if they would install a permanent solution like flashers or gates. At the time, they said they were looking into it.

RELATED: DOTD exploring new options to prevent drivers from going through floodwaters

As for Bluebonnet, WAFB has learned the city is responsible for that stretch of roadway, not DOTD. But since many of these problem spots have taken on water over and over again, Thompson’s family and their attorney believe there’s been more than enough time since we started asking questions for a permanent solution to be in place. WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Battiste if he thinks two years is enough time for action on the matter.

“Yes, I do. I think that’s enough time. If it saves one life if it would have saved Justin Thompson’s life I’m sure the family would agree. I’m hoping that it will prevent this from ever happening again because it’s an easy fix,” explained Thompson.

Both the city and DOTD said they would not comment on the ongoing litigation but a spokesman for the city did get back to WAFB late Tuesday afternoon, saying that the state is working on a pump replacement project in the Bluebonnet area that they hope will keep water from collecting in that spot. No timeline was given for how soon that project might be completed.

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