LAPLACE, LA (WVUE) - State police said Sunday evening that a man in the country illegally who was involved in a deadly multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 10 will face two counts of negligent homicide, reckless operation, and driving without a driver's license, and additional charges are forthcoming.
Two people died in the accidents, including a St. John Parish Fire district chief and a passenger in a car. And dozens more were hurt, including two other firefighters.
"It's been a tough morning in St. John Parish," said Baileigh Rebowe, spokeswoman for St. John Parish Government.
It was on 1-10 westbound near the Belle Terre exit that Sunday morning ended in sorrow.
State police said around 6:40 am, a single car accident occurred when a truck driven by 30 year old Javontris Lawson of Marrero lost control and hit a left guardrail.
"The initial crash was with a Nissan Titan. The Nissan Titan was driving too fast for the road conditions, it was wet," said State Police spokeswoman Trooper Melissa Matey.
State troopers and a St. John fire truck and crew responded to that accident and blocked the right lane to protect the crash scene as the three fire fighters were standing near the right guardrail assisting with minor injuries from the accident.
More than 30 minutes later a 2002 Eldorado private party traveling at a high rate of speed in the westbound lanes of I-10 approached the crash scene.
"The bus was out of control for reasons under investigation, that bus struck the fire department ladder truck that was blocking the roadway, came across the right lane and impacted three firemen, again, assigned to the St. John Fire District. All three firemen were thrown over the side of the guardrail into the water below," Matey said.
District Fire Chief, Spencer Chauvin, 36, of Gramercy died at River Parishes Hospital of his injuries. Firefighters William Mack Beal, 35, and Nicholas Saale, 32 were taken to area hospitals.
By Sunday evening Beal had been released, while Saale remained hospitalized with critical injuries, according to State Police.
"They're the ones that are helping us during events, they're helping us during emergencies, they're there when we need them in that darkest hour, and now it's our time as a community, as a family, as St. John residents and be there for their families and for them during this tragic time," Rebowe continued.
In all, the errant bus affected three vehicles, a Toyota Camry among them. State police said a rear seat passenger in the car, 21-year-old Jermaine Starr, of Moss Point, Mississippi was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver of the Camry, 35 year old Marcus Tate suffered serious injuries and was airlifted to a Baton Rouge hospital. The front seat passenger, Vontravous Kelly and rear seat passenger Davis Jones were taken to University Medical Center in New Orleans. All are from Mississippi.
The impact from the party bus on the Camry also pushed that vehicle into a Chevrolet Silverado truck with a flatbed trailer.
All five occupants of that vehicle were taken to the hospital with minor to moderate injuries.
State Police said the driver of the bus is 37-year-old Denis Yasmir Amaya Rodriguez of Honduras. Authorities said he is in the country illegally and should not have been behind the wheel of the bus, or any vehicle."
"The driver of the charter bus, did not have a driver's license, was not authorized to drive a commercial motor vehicle," said Trooper Matey.
He will be taken to the St. John Parish Correctional Center to be booked with criminal charges, including negligent homicide.
Authorities said the owner of the bus is Kristina's Transportation LLC/AM Party Bus of Jefferson, LA.
Authorities said they have identified 24 passengers who were on the bus and that they were heading to Baton Rouge in the flooding aftermath, but were not volunteers as some had referred to them soon after the accident.
"They were individuals that were being transported from New Orleans to the Baton Rouge area to assist with the flood recovery," said Matey.
"This is a very a sad day for all first responders in Louisiana, " said Col. Mike Edmonson, Commander of LA State Police.
And State Police are reminding drivers to slow down when roads are wet.
"We ask that people slow down, adhere to those speed limits, make sure that you're driving appropriately for the weather conditions," said Matey.
Given the nature of the case, Homeland Security has joined the investigation.