Deadly I-10 accident investigation focuses on bus company, illegal driver

Deadly I-10 accident investigation focuses on bus company, illegal driver

ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH, LA (WVUE) - "St. John Parish has lost a dedicated man," said Lt. Chip Wale of the St. John Parish Sheriff's Office.

Those who knew St. John Fire Chief Spencer Chauvin say he was a model citizen.

"He was definitely a great person to be around, to work with and to train with. He was dedicated to the community that he lived in and served in, and he will be missed," Wale said.

Fire Chief Chauvin was also a volunteer officer with the St. John Sheriff's Office. Wale met Chauvin several years ago as a junior fireman. They trained together and remained close friends.

"He was a family man, and loved both his children and his wife very much," Wale said.

Chauvin and fire fighters Williams "Mack" Beal and Nick Sale were responding to the scene of an accident on  Interstate 10 westbound near Laplace Sunday morning. Their fire truck was being used to block traffic as state troopers investigated a pickup truck that had hit the guardrail.

In the midst of the investigation, police said a "party" bus driven by 37-year-old Denis Yasmir Amaya Rodriguez of Honduras slammed into the fire truck, crossed into the right lane and hit the three fire fighters, sending them over the guardrail and into the water below. Chauvin died.

Beal and Sale were rushed to the hospital. Police said the bus also struck another vehicle, killing a passenger in that car, which hit another vehicle, injuring five more people.

Police said Rodriguez is in the country illegally and should not have been behind the wheel.

"The driver of the bus did not have a driver's license and was not authorized to drive a commercial motor vehicle," Trooper Melissa Matey said.

Rodriguez faces two counts of negligent homicide, reckless operation and driving without a license. Twenty-four people were passengers on the bus he was driving.

"They were individuals that were being transported from New Orleans to the Baton Rouge area to assist with the flood recovery," Matey said.

Several of those people were also hurt and had to be transported to the hospital.

AM Party Bus and Kristina's Transportation L.L.C. owns the bus, and now state troopers are focusing their investigation on the company. The business is registered to a home on Canton Street in Old Jefferson.

U.S. Immigration and Customs is getting involved in the case. The agency is requesting to be notified before Rodriguez is released from jail.

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