Norco remembers father, son killed in train wreck

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 31, 2012



LAPLACE – Well known in the neighborhoods in which they lived most of their lives, a Norco father and son killed in an automobile accident at a train crossing last week were remembered for their devotion to the tight-knit St. Charles Parish community.

Emmett Barreca, 56, and James Barreca, 32, both residents of Barreca Street in Norco, were killed shortly before 3 p.m. last Tuesday when, according to authorities with the Kenner Police Department, the elder Barreca drove his Jeep Liberty into the path of an Amtrak passenger train headed to New Orleans. The train struck the SUV, pushing it into a ditch parallel to the tracks. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene.

Authorities said Emmett Barreca was trying to avoid traffic on Airline Drive near the airport when he turned off the highway onto a shell road near the Jefferson-St. Charles Parish line. The road is not open to the public and known only to some members of Jefferson Parish law enforcement.

Kenner Police Department spokesman Wayne McInnis said Barreca, a former Kenner Police officer, could have been trying to use the road as a shortcut at the time of the crash. He said the train engineer saw the SUV and was sounding the horn before the train reached the intersection. McInnis said all indications were that Barreca was trying to “beat the train.”

McInnis said signs are posted indicating a railroad crossing at the intersection, but no crossing arm is present. He said the road is not authorized for vehicular traffic and it is only supposed to be used by employees of the East Jefferson Levee District, the New Orleans Aviation Board and construction contractors.

State Sen. Gary Smith, who knows the family well, said he and others believe Emmett Barreca knew the road as a shortcut to skirt around traffic.

“They were apparently in a hurry because James had to get back to work,” Smith said. “It is such a blow to this community.”

Emmett Barreca was a former St. Charles Parish sheriff’s deputy and worked as a Kenner police officer, as well as a supervisor for Homeland Security. He was also well known as a Norco Volunteer firefighter and member of the Knights of Columbus.

James Barreca was the baseball team manager and statistician at Destrehan High School. Destrehan High School Principal Steven Weber said he has known the family as part of Norco “for as long as there has been a Norco.”

“He was a part of the group that worked to revive the Norco Christmas parade in 2000,” Weber said.

Smith also said James Barreca and other members of the family often volunteered for his campaigns.

James Barreca had been elected as a justice of the peace in District 6 in 2002, and recently was elected without opposition to the St. Charles Parish Democratic Executive Committee.

A donation fund has been set up for the Barreca’s at First National Bank, 590 Apple St., Norco.

Donations can be made at any of the St. Charles Parish branches.