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2 fatal Northshore crasheS Wednesday

Wednesday evening, troopers from Louisiana State Police Troop L remained busy investigating two separate fatal crashes occurring at nearly the same time in St. Tammany and Washington parishes. The crashes resulted in the deaths of two Northshore residents and closed portions of Interstate 12 in Covington and Louisiana Highway 21 in Bogalusa during the investigations.

In Bogalusa, the evening’s second fatal crash occurred at approximately 8:50 p.m. on Highway 21 southbound near Bogalusa. The crash killed 69-year old Howard Woodward of Franklinton.

Preliminary investigation revealed that a 2005 Ford truck, operated by 40-year old Donald Richardson of Bush, was southbound on Highway 21, while a 1997 Dodge truck, operated by Woodward, was traveling northbound.

Richardson, for reasons still under investigation, veered left and crossed the center line entering the northbound lane. As the Ford entered into the oncoming lane, it impacted the Dodge in a head-on collision. Woodward was not properly restrained at the time of the crash and was pronounced dead on the scene by the Washington Parish Coroner’s Office. Two additional passengers in the Dodge pickup were transported to St. Tammany Parish Hospital with moderate injuries.

Richardson was restrained and transported to Our Lady of Angels Hospital in Bogalusa where he was treated and released. Impairment is not suspected on the part of Richardson or Woodward; however, blood samples were collected from both for a toxicological examination. Richardson was subsequently arrested and booked at the Washington Parish Jail for negligent homicide, two counts of negligent injuring and driving on wrong side of road.

In Covington, the evening’s first crash occurred at approximately 8:30 p.m. on Interstate 12 eastbound near the Pinnacle Parkway exit in St. Tammany Parish. Preliminary investigation revealed that a 2002 Nissan Maxima, operated by 26-year old Chandler Laurent of Lacombe, and a 2002 Peterbilt 18-wheeler, operated by 35-year old Maykel Fernandez, were in the right lane traveling eastbound on I-12 near Pinnacle Parkway. Laurent, for reasons under investigation, failed to slow with traffic and rear-ended the Peterbilt. Laurent suffered fatal injuries as a result of the crash and was pronounced dead on the scene by the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office.

Fernandez was restrained and not injured. Fernandez voluntarily submitted to a breath alcohol test, which indicated that he had no detectable signs of alcohol in his system. Because of the extent of the vehicle damage, restraint use is unknown at this time for Laurent. Impairment is not suspected at this time; however, a blood sample was collected from Laurent for a toxicological examination.

The toxicology results from both crashes are pending as these crashes remain under investigation.

Troopers witness firsthand the remarkable difference the use of a seat belt makes in reducing injuries and fatalities in crashes. Louisiana law requires every vehicle occupant, front seat and back seat, to be properly restrained day or night. According to State Police, taking the time to buckle up every trip every time is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.