ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH, La. (WGNO) — Part of Interstate 55 was reopened on Tuesday, Oct. 24 following a massive vehicle pileup in St. John the Baptist Parish on Monday.
Louisiana State Police currently estimate that at least 168 vehicles were involved, 63 people were taken to area hospitals and eight people died.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, all vehicles have been removed from both sides of I-55.
Crews with the Department of Transportation and Development assisted first responders with clean-up efforts.
“[We are] removing debris, removing diesel, oil, other chemicals off the roadway, so we can begin our in-depth bridge inspection,” said DOTD Communication Director Rodney Mallett.
Mallet explained crews will need daylight to do part of the comprehensive bridge inspection, but they can get started on inspections utilizing sonar and x-ray.
So far, inspectors have identified multiple areas of the bridge that will require repairs.
“We’re trying to expedite it as much as we can, but there is no timeline,” Mallett said. “The number one rule is safety. We want to make sure that the bridge is safe before we open it. We also want to make sure our crews that go out there to inspect the bridge are in a safe environment.”
According to Mallett, Louisiana has the third highest death rate as it relates to bridges, so they’re experienced at emergency inspections.
The hope is to prevent another tragedy.
“A lot of families are impacted, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those groups, so when there is a crash, we do have a safety section that looks to see if there are any safety measures that could be implemented to help us avoid this situation in the future.”
The crashes started around 9 a.m. Monday near Manchac and Ruddock. Both directions of the roadway were closed as a result of the pileup.
Currently, the closure is from Ponchatoula to the Ruddock exit.
Northbound traffic can travel on the elevated part of the interstate to the Ruddock exit where traffic will be diverted to the low road.
Southbound traffic will be diverted to the low road at the Ruddock entrance ramp where drivers can get on the elevated part of the interstate.
According to a spokeswoman for Louisiana State Police, the reopening of the roadway will be carefully coordinated with LSP and DOTD personnel, pending the results of the inspections.
The spokeswoman also stated:
Troopers are diligently working to confirm that all vehicles involved in the crash are accounted for and identify all persons associated with those vehicles. Drivers and owners of vehicles involved in the crash who are looking for information on where their vehicle was towed are encouraged to contact Troop B by email at TroopB@la.gov. Vehicle owners looking to retrieve personal items or their vehicles from the tow yard can do so by providing proof of vehicle ownership to the tow company where their vehicle is being stored.
In addition, the public is encouraged to use the Louisiana Department of Health behavioral health resource guide for all those affected by this tragic incident.
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