Victims remembered after fatal Esplanade Avenue crash killed 2, injured 7
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Family and friends are mourning the loss of two cyclists killed in a hit-and-run crash on Esplanade Avenue Saturday night (March 2).
A 32-year-old man was arrested in connection with the crash, which also left nine other people injured, according to New Orleans police. Investigators believe Tashonty Toney was intoxicated when he sped down Esplanade Avenue just after 8 p.m., striking a total of nine people -- most of whom were on bicycles -- across three different blocks.
Toney is now facing with two counts of vehicular homicide, among other charges.
At a makeshift memorial along Esplanade Avenue the day after the crash, Kenia Menedez and a few of her coworkers paid homage to those who lost their lives in a hit-and-run. They were working when Toney plowed into the numerous victims and saw the wreckage he left behind.
“It’s just a big impact that made everybody realize you never know what can go on a few seconds from here,” Menedez said. “We just heard a loud boom and saw pieces going everywhere. And we came outside and people were screaming. We saw a lady in the street and no one noticed that the other lady was here, and we just started to give her air, CPR and all that. She didn’t have a heartbeat at all.”
That woman was Sharree Walls.
Walls’ great uncle, Melvin Walls, said Sharree was kind and independent.
“I guess the biggest part is caring,” Melvin Walls said. “She always cared for people.”
She was goal-oriented with a solid work-ethic, he said. Sharree loved New Orleans, having moved here just after she graduated from the University of Pennsylvania about three years ago. Melvin Walls said he and his family are struggling to cope with the news.
“Devastating. It was something that was hard to believe,” he said.
Witnesses said Toney was speeding and driving in the bike lane when he hit the cyclists. NOPD believe he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, but investigators are still awaiting blood test results.
In addition to Walls, police records indicate Toney also allegedly hit and killed 31-year-old David Hynes. The seven other victims ranged in age from 27 to 62. At least three were in critical condition when they were brought to University Medical Center’s trauma center.
Toney was booked Sunday morning after going to the hospital himself, online jail records show.
Meanhile, those affected by this tragedy are trying to come to grips with what happened.
“Trying to make ourselves believe that something like this really happened,” Melvin Walls said. “We just have to appreciate the last time we have, because we don’t know when we’re going to die or what’s going to happen the next day. It’s horrible.”
Online court records do not show Toney having any previous criminal charges in Orleans or Jefferson parishes. As of Sunday evening, Toney was still in jail in lieu of a $510,000 bond on his charges -- 11 counts of vehicular negligent injury, one count each of hit-and-run involving death or a serious injury and reckless operation of a vehicle, in addition to the homicide charges.
NOPD spokesman Andy Cunningham said Toney’s father is an officer with the department, which will not affect the investigation. The department’s federal consent decree monitor is aware of the incident and will stay involved with the investigation, Cunningham said.
Sharree was a board member of the Krewe of Red Beans and participated in the Red Beans Parade for four years, according to the group’s founder, Devin DeWulf. The parade will start its roll with a funeral-style dirge in Walls’ honor before they start their march through the Bywater Monday afternoon. Their sister krewe, the Dead Beans Parade will do the same in Bayou St. John.
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