Chauvin wreck a painful ordeal for community

A deadly and wreck that claimed three lives last week is still reverberating through this small bayou community, as families of victims in both vehicles cope with anguish and unanswered questions.

The crash, which occurred Friday at 8 p.m. on La. Highway 56 near Tammy Street in Chauvin prompted gallant rescue efforts from people living nearby. But it also led to harsh words of anger and blame on social networking sites.

According to State Police, the 2008 Corvette driven by 52-year-old Lloyd LeCompte Jr. of Montegut, traveled south on La. Highway 56 near the Toussaint Foret Bridge “at a high rate of speed” when it crossed the center line and entered the northbound lane of traffic. Paul Broussard, 50, of Chauvin, was in the Corvette’s passenger seat. The

car struck a 2002 Dodge Ram truck driven by 43-year-old Eugene Rodrigue, of Chauvin, who was driving north in the northbound lane with his wife, 35-year-old Desi in the front seat and their two boys, 16-year-old Eugene Jr. and 14-year-old Tyler.

Desi remains at Terrebonne General Medical Center following surgery, and the teens , who were pulled from the truck, are said by family members to be recovering.

The wreck occurred a short distance from the Rodrigue family’s driveway.

Witnesses told first-responders they could hear the Corvette’s gears winding out as it sped along the highway.

Rodrigue had backed his truck onto the two-lane road from its southbound side and swung it around to face north in the northbound lane, then traveled in that direction. Some witness accounts held that Lloyd was passing an automobile, thus placing him in the northbound lane. Other accounts make no mention of a vehicle being passed. Officially, at this point, State Police maintain that the cross into the northbound lane was for “unknown reasons” pending their continuing investigation.

What is certain is that the Corvette and the pickup met head on, with a force that caused an explosion and fire, disintegrating a portion of the sports car forward of the passenger compartment.

“In 43 years, I have only seen one or two wrecks this bad, and those were wrecks that would have happened when the roads were narrow and there were no shoulders,” said Little Caillou Fire Chief Marty Thibodeaux, who worked with his fire fighters for hours after, cleaning up parts of the autos strewn along the highway.

Trooper First Class Jesse LaGrange, a State Police Troop C spokesman, said that impairment is suspected on the part of LeCompte, but not on the part of Rodrigue.

Standard toxicology tests are still pending, he said.

A miniature Chihuahua traveling with the Rodrigue family suffered injuries and after being revived by a firefighter was taken to a veterinarian, but its condition could not be ascertained Saturday.

Anita Theriot, a neighbor of the Rodrigue family, was in her home when she heard what sounded like an explosion.

“It was very very loud, I can only describe it like when someone shoots a shotgun how loud it is, right at your ears, louder than if it was in home,” she said.

“I ran to my front door and opened it up and I saw smoke. I grabbed my phone and called 911.”

Theriot said she often saw the Rodrigue children playing with the little dog in their yard. She described the Rodrigues as a close family.

Eugene Rodrigue had recently had his hours cut at the oilfield service company where he worked. The two boys, she said, spent a lot of time, especially recently, helping around the family property cutting grass and performing other chores.

Tina Marie, a life-long Chauvin resident who owns a house and business cleaning service, knew all of the people who died and their families. She has seen first-hand the tragedy devolve into pointed fingers.

She has attempted to give what comfort she can to all concerned.

She and her husband, Mitchell, were headed to the Piggly Wiggly to buy milk when they saw a blue vehicle heading toward them in their northbound lane.

Tina said Mitchell opined that the sports car was not going to make an upcoming turn The vehicle – Lloyd’s Corvette – swung out of their path and continued in the southbound lane, and Mitchell predicted that the sports car wouldn’t make a slight curve that it would soon meet on the highway.

A moment later, the Maries heard the sickening sound of the impact. They turned around and headed toward

the wreck site, where Tina said they encountered what looked like “a war zone.”

Flames licked up at the sky. Eugene Rodrigue, thrown a distance from his truck, was still living.

Mitchell and Tina tried to comfort Desi Rodrigue and the two teens.

According to Tina, the Rodrigues were headed up the bayou to aid a family friend who was in a minor car wreck.

Since the tragedy, Tina and other people in Chauvin who count friendships with the families of the truck occupants and the Corvette occupants have walked a thin line between them, offering aid and comfort when they can and encouraging good will.

“It’s hard because I loved Lloyd he was like family, such a good person,” Tina said. “He made this decision to drive drinking which was out of character for him. He was a joker, but a good-natured one, and he was strict. I know the blame game has started and I understand all of their sides. I understand the pain they are going through.”

Lloyd had worked at Crosby Tugs but suffered an injury, and had been on pain medications. He had left Louisiana, living for a time in Texas, but returned days before the wreck to try and build a new life. Paul Broussard and he, relatives and friends said, had been pals since boyhood. They were believed headed to a bayouside bar near the Boudreaux Canal Bridge Friday night after a visit with Lloyd’s brother.

“It’s not about the blame game,” Tina said. “Everybody is hurting right now. The fact remains that three people died and families are left broken.” •

Chauvin Wreck