Parade crash witnesses call for Mid-City lane closure

Parade crash witnesses call for Mid-City lane closure

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Surveillance video obtained by FOX 8 shows what appears to be Neilson Rizzuto's truck just feet away from the scene, moments before police say he plowed through a crowd on the Endymion Parade route.

"When I first looked he was behind another vehicle and it seemed like he got upset that he was waiting in traffic so he went around the vehicle," said Gino Ascani, a first responder who was off-duty, but on the scene as dozens of people were injured.

Ascani is a firefighter by day and quickly rushed into the chaos to help victims and subdue Rizzuto, but it was the open lane on North Carrollton that left him baffled even before the truck rammed through the slow-moving traffic and into the crowd.

"It's very dangerous right there because the street, North Carrollton, is opened northbound. So people are walking in the middle of the street, there's all that streetcar traffic they have and so it was just a matter of time before somebody got injured being in that street. Why they don't close that street down to traffic after the parade starts is beyond me," Ascani said.

Witnesses on scene said the crowd was so thick it stretched into the center lane of the open road as the mega floats rolled through Mid-City.

"Twenty people deep. So they leave it to where people have to drive in between the streetcar track or where people are standing and where people are walking because people think there's a car here, and a car there, so people are kind of nonchalant about let's watch out for traffic," Ascani said.

In fact, nearly everyone walking by the scene Saturday night questioned why the lane was left open in the first place.

"In all honesty, it should be closed, it shouldn't really take that much effort to keep it closed," Barret Dragon, a Mid-City resident, said.

"St. Charles isn't like that and they have so much more middle ground. You don't want to feel like you're going to stumble backward into other traffic," said Craig Hallenstein, a New Orleans resident.

In the surveillance video, you can see the large crowd spilling into the street.

Saturday night, at the scene, Mayor Landrieu said lane closures near parade routes have to do with crowd size and the ability to move traffic, but he's promised the city will re-examine its decision to leave the northbound lanes of Carrollton opened while thousands of people are walking around just feet away from traffic.

"We'll go back and look at where Mid-City is and what that looks like just like the other side of St. Charles Avenue when the parades are Uptown. They're all worth re-looking at and rethinking and just getting better every time, but that accident wouldn't have happened whether that street was open or closed if an individual didn't make a horrible decision," Mayor Landrieu said.

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