Another person dies in canals along Airline Highway

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Staff Reporter

DESTREHAN — A Mississippi man was killed late Friday morning after he lost control of his vehicle and drove into a deep canal along Airline Highway in St. Charles Parish, said authorities from State Police.

Senior Trooper Joseph Piglia, public affairs official for Louisiana State Police, said Mitchell D. Edwards, 31, an employee of T. L. Wallace Construction of Columbus, Miss., was driving a company-owned vehicle southbound on Airline Highway toward New Orleans around 11:15 a.m. when he suddenly veered toward the grassy median, crossed two lanes of oncoming traffic in the northbound lanes of the highway and drove into the “Barrow Pit” Canal that runs along the northbound shoulder of the road.

(See CANAL, pg. 3A)

Piglia said Edwards, a resident of Tylertown, Miss., may have had a heart attack or some other medical emergency just before the crash occurred that might have caused him to lose control of the Ford F-250 pickup he was driving. He said an autopsy is still pending.

The report from State Police said the truck hit a tree branch before entering the murky water of the canal, which is estimated to be around 30 feet deep in some areas.

The truck was located about one mile west of Interstate 310, roughly 25 feet from the bank of the canal. The vehicle was almost completely submerged when rescue workers arrived. A wrecker pulled the vehicle from the water sometime around noon with Edwards still inside. Troopers on the scene said Edwards was not wearing his seat belt when he was recovered from the vehicle. He was the only passenger in the truck.

Authorities said Edwards was traveling with other employees to a job site in St. Charles Parish when he began to complain of chest pains. He made a request to pull over to the shoulder to get a drink.

“It was at that point that the vehicle veered to the left toward the canal,” said St. Rose Fire Chief Larry Cochran.

Piglia said several passing motorists, who witnessed the accident, pulled over to try and assist Edwards, but, Piglia said, there was nothing that anyone could do since the vehicle was too far submerged. Investigators shut down a stretch of Airline Highway between St. Rose Avenue and Ormond Boulevard while rescuers worked to pull the vehicle from the water. The roar re-opened sometime around 1:30 p.m.

Edwards’ fatality is the latest in a long line of deaths blamed on the canal that stretch back to 2001 and Friday’s crash could further increase pleas for some form of safety barrier to separate the road and the canal.

With the help of State Rep., Gary Smith, D-Norco, and State Sen. Joel Chaisson II, D-Destrehan, St. Charles Parish will receive a $1 million allocation from the Louisiana Legislature to go toward funding for a cable barrier system designed to keep motorists from veering off into the canal. Representatives from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development said the project will go out for bids at the end of the state’s next fiscal year, which is scheduled to end June 30, 2010.