LACOMBE--Troopers from Louisiana State Police Troop L began investigating a single vehicle fatal crash involving a 2010 Freightliner 18 wheeler. The crash took place on Interstate 12 approximately two miles west of the LA 434 exit in St. Tammany Parish on Dec. 19 around 11 a.m.
Troopers’ preliminary investigation revealed that the Freightliner was traveling east in the right lane of Interstate 12 when, for unknown reasons, it drifted off road to the right.
The three occupants of the 2010 Freightliner 18 wheeler have been positively identified by investigators at the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office. All family notifications have been made.
Driver: 25 year old Ronald Phelps of Whitsett, North Carolina pronounced dead at the scene by the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office.
Passenger 1: 21 year old Tiffany Payne of White Oak, North Carolina pronounced dead at the scene by the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office.
Passenger 2: 25 year old David Sarty of Hope Mills, North Carolina transported to University Medical Center in New Orleans with serious injuries.
As the 18 wheeler left the paved roadway, it traveled for approximately 300 feet along the grass shoulder before entering the tree line and impacting several trees with its front end.
After impact, the Freightliner jack-knifed and became engulfed in flames trapping the three adult passengers in the cab portion of the vehicle. Witnesses to the crash were able to successfully remove one of the passengers; however, the remaining two occupants were not able to be located due to the extent of the fire.
The rescued passenger was transported to University Medical Center in New Orleans with critical injuries.
The two remaining passengers were pronounced dead at the scene by the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office. Seatbelt use and driver impairment is unknown at this time.
Due to the fire, medical investigators with the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office are actively working towards the positive identification of the deceased passengers through forensic examination.
The identities of the three occupants will be released upon identification and family notifications.
While the cause of the crash remains under investigation, troopers urge the public to remain vigilant while driving, never drive while fatigued, and avoid distracting activities, especially the temptations of electronic devices that can substantially divert a driver’s attention away from the road.
Motorists that witness hazardous situations are urged to call *LSP (*577) and report that activity to the Louisiana State Police.
TFC Nick Manale
Louisiana State Police
Public Affairs Unit
Office: (985) 893-6250 Ext:628