Airboat crash happened in blind curve; victim leaves behind young family

LAFOURCHE PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Investigators believe a blind spot on the waterway and weather conditions led to a fatal boat crash Monday afternoon in Des Allemands.

The accident happened around 3 p.m. near Mud Lake along Bayou Des Allemands in Lafourche Parish after a swamp tour airboat from Airboat Tours by Arthur collided with a mud boat.

According to the survivors on the airboat, the mud boat and the airboat were traveling in opposite directions on the same side of the bayou and collided while navigating a bend in the bayou.

The operator of the mud boat, Bart B. Dufrene Jr., 35, of Des Allemands, was pronounced dead at the St. Charles Parish Hospital.  The five passengers were uninjured.

During the crash, Dufrene Jr. was ejected into the water. The airboat operator jumped in the water and took Dufrene Jr. to the shore where an ambulance was waiting to transport him to the hospital.

Investigators believe both boats were hugging the bank because of the weather conditions.

"It's really windy out and that area is kind of wide and it's a big body of water and these boats tend to travel close to the inlet banks," Wildlife and Fisheries Region 6 Capt. Chuck Comeaux said. "Both vessels were probably coming around each side of that point, which makes it kind of a blind curve or blind bend. When they approach that point, both met up with each other."

The owner of the airboat tour company did not want to give an on-camera interview. He did say both the airboat operator and Dufrene were close.

"It's going to hurt a lot. I was talking to Bart Sr. earlier," family member Richard Chiasson said.

Dufrene's family and friends gathered at his home in Bayou Gauche Tuesday, remembering the man they have watched grow and now thinking of the young family he leaves behind.

"It wasn't now that he's gone he's a good person, that's not the truth. He was a good person all the way through. If you needed something, he was one of them that would come there and give you a hand," Chiasson said.

Dufrene Jr. was not wearing a personal flotation device; however, it is unknown if it could have prevented his death. The St. Charles Parish Coroner's Office will perform an autopsy to determine a cause of death.

Organizers of the annual Christmas on Da Bayou parade rescheduled the event "out of respect for the Dufrene family". It will now be held on December 10th along Bayou Gauche starting at 5:30 p.m.

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