Family devastated by teen’s death

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 6, 2003


GRAMERCY – The burly security guard shook with his own sobs, trying to understand why God had taken his only son.

“I wanted a son for so long,” the father remembered.

A Gramercy boy, riding his new, Christmas gift four-wheeler Saturday afternoon was struck and killed by an Amtrack train heading into the Bonnet Carre Spillway section of track.

Brenton Joseph Clouatre, 13, a native of LaPlace and resident of Gramercy, was the son of Elton “Rambo” and Laura Berthelot Clouatre and brother of Brandy Clouatre, 15.

Elton Clouatre, a 51-year-old security guard at a Donaldsonville hospital, knew the area well.

“I’ve been hunting back there all my life,” he said.

He brought his son, Brenton, and another 13-year-old boy to the area between Prescott Road, a private road north of Airline Drive in Montz, to go rabbit-hunting and to allow the boys to ride their new off-track vehicles.

The elder Clouatre had already gotten one rabbit, and Brenton thought he saw another on the other side of the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad tracks near Prescott, near the Lake Pontchartrain lakefront.

Capt. Patrick Yoes of the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office said, “It’s private property. They shouldn’t have been back there in the first place.”

Brenton’s friend was riding a three-wheeler and Brenton had a used Yamaha 250, purchased for $700.

“I told them not to get on the track,” Elton Clouatre said.

However, the boys did, and soon, the four-wheeler’s tires were stuck between the rails.

According to Brenton’s friend, Brenton first lifted the front wheels, then tried to lift the rear end, made heavier by the engine.

“The train’s coming fast,” the friend urged Brenton.

Yoes said the train’s engineer blew the horn several times to alert the boy. He had no answer as to why the teen-ager did not jump to safety. The train, the City of New Orleans, was en route from Chicago to New Orleans, clipping along fast at an estimated 80 mph.

Elton Clouatre said he knew it well. Some time back, while crabbing in the same area, he was lifting an ice chest and carrying it across the track when he had to jump to avoid being hit by the same train.

After the accident, the elder Clouatre said he noticed the stopped train. He had not noticed the train’s horn.

“I swear I never heard the train’s horn,” he said, but admitted he could easily have been mistaken, being at least a half-mile from the accident scene.

Minutes later, the other boy, whose identity was not released, came roaring back on his three-wheeler, as Elton Clouatre watched his approach through binoculars.

“Where’s Brenton?” Clouatre asked. The boy put his head down and said, “He got hit by the train.”

Shaken, Clouatre thought his son was injured, this belief carried by the boy’s next words: “He’s bleeding by the leg.” However, the boy might have said, “by the head.” The next few minutes remain a pain-filled blur for the grieving father.

He remembered driving his truck to the railroad track and talking briefly with someone from the train. The man told him he should stay back. Elton Clouatre identified himself and went forward, saying he was going to call for a doctor.

“He don’t need a doctor,” the stranger told him.

Clouatre saw something under a white sheet. Beyond that point, the four-wheeler was sitting upright.

He lifted the corner of the sheet and saw his son. He felt for a pulse, then placed his hand on his heart. Nothing. “Why, Brenton, why?” came his words.

The train was delayed for more than three hours because of the accident.

Brenton Clouatre was the grandchild of Shirley Destor Clouatre, Violet Berthelot, and the late Lynn Berthelot and Elton Clouatre Sr.

He was an eight-grade student at Lutcher High School who loved hunting and fishing and being with his dad, and who made friends easily.

“He’s with his Parrain,” Clouatre said, remembering the death of his own father on Dec. 21, just a week earlier.

Services for Brenton Clouatre were Dec. 31 at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Gramercy, with interment at St. Joseph Cemetery in Paulina.