Thursday, February 7, 2008

Debra Schaefer of Marrero, died after she was hit in the head by the coupler of a trailer that broke loose

5 motorists indicted in Tammany

4 people were killed in string of accidents
Thursday, October 26, 2006
By Bruce Hamilton
St. Tammany bureau

A St. Tammany Parish grand jury Wednesday indicted five people in connection with four fatal accidents, including two teenage friends who allegedly were speeding in separate vehicles on Interstate 12 near Lacombe.

Kelvin Wright, 17, and Chris Eden, 18, were charged in a three-vehicle accident June 3 that led to the death of Ethan Cousin, 16, of Lacombe. Cousin was a passenger in a Nissan driven by Wright when the car ran into the grass median and flipped.

According to State Police, Eden and Wright were speeding side by side on the interstate just before midnight when an unidentified green car collided with Wright's car. Trooper Louis Calato said the unidentified car is believed to be a Dodge Intrepid; anyone with information about the car is asked to call Troop L at (985) 893-6250.

As the two friends' vehicles came upon the green car, it swerved from the right lane into the left and sideswiped Wright's Nissan, causing it to crash. The green car fled the scene. Eden is accused of driving away in a Honda Accord.

Wright was indicted on a charge of vehicular homicide; police originally booked him with DWI. Eden was charged with negligent homicide as well as hit-and-run driving. The charge does not imply his vehicle hit anything.

Hit-and-run driving is defined as "the intentional failure of the driver of a vehicle involved in or causing any accident to stop such vehicle at the scene of the accident, to give his identity and to render reasonable aid."

The grand jury also indicted a Mississippi man in connection with an Aug. 5 hit-and-run wreck that killed a woman who was walking along U.S. 190 in Slidell. Steven Wayne Cortez, 34, is accused of hitting Carla Lawrence, 41, with his Chevrolet pickup.

Slidell police said Lawrence was walking home at 1:30 a.m. after work at Slidell Memorial Hospital when she was pinned against the railing on the Bayou Vincent bridge.

Cortez, a construction worker from Kiln, Miss., allegedly admitted hitting the bridge and "something alive" after he had several drinks at a bar. He was charged with vehicular homicide and hit-and-run driving.

In another case, the jury indicted a Franklinton man in connection with an Aug. 8, 2005, crash on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. Troy Seeger, 41, is accused of smashing a van into a Lincoln Continental driven by Wayne Corkern, 60, of the Mandeville area, on the southbound span at about 10:35 a.m.

Corkern and a 12-year-old passenger were about 5 miles south of Mandeville when their car got a flat tire and Seeger's Ford Econoline slammed into it, according to police. Corkern died about two hours later. Seeger was charged with vehicular homicide and vehicular negligent injuring.

The fourth fatality occurred in a freak crash on the U.S. 11 bridge over Lake Pontchartrain on Nov. 6, 2005. The victim, Debra Schaefer of Marrero, died after she was hit in the head by the coupler of a trailer that broke loose from an oncoming pickup, according to police.

Jeffrey Dinger, 41, of New Orleans was driving north at 6:22 p.m. when the trailer came off his 1990 Chevrolet on the northern half of the bridge. The trailer, carrying a 16-foot boat, drifted across the lanes, hit a railing and pierced the passenger side of the 2005 GMC pickup driven by Schaefer's husband.

Dinger was charged with negligent homicide and hit-and-run driving. Hit-and-run driving is punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison when it results in death or serious bodily injury.

Negligent homicide carries a maximum punishment of a $5,000 fine and 5 years in prison. Vehicular homicide, which implies the influence of drugs or alcohol, is punishable by a fine of $2,000 to $15,000 and 5 to 30 years in prison.

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Bruce Hamilton can be reached at or (985) 898-4827.

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