Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Witness to fatal crash calls for improved safety measures

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BATON ROUGE - In the wake of a 16-car pileup that killed a 13-year-old on Tuesday, one driver is calling for enhanced safety measures on the old Mississippi River bridge.

Archie Trahan and Sherry Richard were sitting in traffic on the eastbound side of the U.S. 190 bridge Tuesday morning. Trahan saw the fatal chain-reaction crash begin.

"Looked in my rear-view mirror, seeing an 18-wheeler coming down the road, basically sideways, and another 18-wheeler hit him in the back and forced it into everybody," he said.

Trahan tried to help while 13-year-old Janaria James was trapped in her car, which was mostly underneath one of the 18-wheelers.

"The wheel was on top of the car, which pinned her head down," Trahan said. "Nothing I could do."

As Trahan, who uses the bridge daily, said no one else should die there.

"I do think we need some kind of warning system on this bridge, because there's plenty of places to mount it," Trahan said. "To say there's a train on track, to be aware that there may be stopped traffic."

WBRZ asked the Department of Transportation and Development if warning lights or signs for drivers coming down from the bridge, like those installed near LA 415, along I-10 eastbound in West Baton Rouge, were possible in the wake of this crash or had previously been discussed.

A DOTD spokesman said once the agency receives a crash report from law enforcement "we'll have an exact location and cause at that time and can look at the number of crashes and cause to see what safety measures can be implemented. Before implementing any safety measures we need to determine the cause and number of crashes."

The site of Tuesday's crash does not appear to have had other fatal crashes in recent years, he said.

DOTD says it is just too early to tell if safety measures are needed on that route, but Trahan says they can't come soon enough.

"I really believe if we had some kind of warning on this bridge saying there was a train on the tracks, maybe these 18-wheelers would have enough time to slow down and people would be aware that there's traffic stopped," Trahan said. "I don't know if we could ever get that done, but a fatality may have that done."


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