5 killed on their way home from church by suspected drunk driver
SLAUGHTER, LA (WAFB) - Authorities said a head-on collision that killed five people and critically injured two others Wednesday night may have been the result of drinking and driving. Family members of the victims say the group of seven people were heading home to Baton Rouge from church, in Clinton.
Minister John Gaines says he was waiting for his wife to return home after her regular Wednesday night service, but it was Louisiana State Police that showed up instead.
"They asked me who was Brenda, I said my wife. Is she alright? He said there was an accident...and she's gone," said Gaines. He says he then asked about his daughter and four grandchildren, who were also with his wife. Gaines says he was then told his daughter and two of the grandchildren were also dead. A church member, who was also in the car, was also killed.
The crash happened on LA 67 near LA 412 in the town of Slaughter just before 10 p.m. Investigators said a 2007 Dodge pickup drove head-on into a 1996 Mercury Grand Marquis.
Brett Gerald, 30, of Greensburg was arrested and booked into the East Feliciana Parish Prison. The Louisiana State Police said it is believed he may have been drunk at the time. Gerald faces the following charges:
Vehicular homicide (5 counts)
First-degree vehicular negligence injuring (2 counts)
DWI (2nd offense)
Reckless operation of a motor vehicle
Driving left of center
Troopers have released the names of the victims in the car who died. They are all from Baton Rouge and were pronounced dead at the scene by the East Feliciana Parish Coroner's Office. They were identified as:
Brenda Gaines, 64 (Driver, Denise Gaines' mother)
Angela Mosely, 35 (Fellow church member)
Denise Gaines, 33 (Mother of Diamond, Jyren and two other teens in the vehicle)
Diamond Johnson, 12
Jyren Johnson, 6
Two teens in the car suffered life-threatening injuries and were taken to the hospital.
According to the husband of Brenda Gaines, Diamond, Jyren and the two teens who were hospitalized are all Denise's children. He says one of the teenagers may not survive.
"The doctor did all he can do...I understand, but he's not the doctor I'm depending on. But God, have mercy," said Gaines.
"It's just so hard," said Denise's sister, Delia. "And it's not fair. He's alive."
Gerald suffered only minor injuries in the accident. Wednesday was his birthday and investigators said they believe he was returning home from celebrating it.
Firefighters and other rescuers arrived to find a horrific scene.
"When we got here, the wreck appeared to be really bad," said Alan McNabb with Bluff Creek Fire Protection. "And, it probably ranks up there with the worst ones that I've encountered."
Residents along the rural stretch of LA 67 where the crash occurred just stared in shock as emergency crews cleaned up the scene.
"To be honest, I never saw nothing like that before," said Terashalyn Spears. "The front of the car was in the back seat and I seen a white pickup truck over on the side of the road."
Blood samples from both drivers were submitted to the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab for analysis. Troopers added they do not suspect Gaines was impaired.
The crash is still being investigated.
Brenda's husband says their funerals will all be at the same time, saying that he doesn't think he could survive five separate funerals.
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