METAIRIE, LA -- Causeway General Manager Carlton Dufrechou says that the new rails that are currently being installed would have prevented a pickup from leaving the bridge and crashing into the lake this morning.
The accident happened a little after 6:00. A pickup truck with a man, woman, and dog was traveling southbound when it left the bridge and landed in the water.
The southbound stretch of the causeway is the older of the two spans. The railing on the side of the bridge was not designed to prevent a vehicle from leaving the roadway.
For the past two years, bridge drivers have been paying higher tolls to cover the cost of safety improvements on the bridge including improved railing southbound. Dufrechou says that the old railing has now been removed from one mile at the Mandeville side of the bridge and the first section of new railing should be in place before the end of the month.
Improvements also include the construction of segmented shoulders that will be added between the crossovers on the bridge. Dufrechou says the first one of the shoulders should be finished by the end of August. He expects an additional one to be completed monthly after that.
As for this morning's crash, Dufrechou says that there were no other vehicles involved besides the pickup truck. He says that a bridge police officer quickly arrived at the scene, at about the 18 mile marker, and jumped into the water to help the truck's occupants. After backup arrived, the man, woman, and their dog were all lifted to safety using the rescue baskets that the bridge first responders carry with them.
There were no serious injuries in the accident. But Dufrechou says too often, the outcome is different.
"It is so hit and miss when a vehicle goes over. It depends on an array of factors if people can even get out of the vehicle and then to rescue them. The odds are about 50-50," Dufrechou told WGNO News. "So we're living large today and knocking on wood. Hopefully when we get the vehicle up, we'll know more about what happened."
Causeway workers closed the bridge for about 90 minutes this morning while the crash victims were rescued. Dufrechou expects to close the bridge a second time later today or perhaps tomorrow to pull the pickup from the water.