DE SOTO PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A multi-vehicle accident on U.S.171 claimed the life of a LaDOTD worker and injured two others.
Around 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, the workers involved were filling potholes on U.S. 171 just south of W.P.A. Rd. in Benson. One employee, Chris Gray, was tragically killed. Jalen Singleton sustained serious injuries, and Mario Ross received moderate injuries and was later released from the hospital.
Officials have not yet released Singleton’s condition.
Louisiana State Police say that a 2021 International (empty log truck), driven by 42-year-old Charles Barker of Florien, was traveling south on U.S. Hwy 171. At the same time, two Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) vehicles were stopped in the right lane of U.S. Hwy 171 as work crews made road surface improvements.
Barker’s reportedly vehicle struck the first DOTD vehicle, which was a 2018 Dodge Ram truck, causing it to leave the roadway. Police say after the initial impact, the International struck the second DOTD vehicle, which was a 2015 Ford dump truck. Gray was standing behind the Ford and was also struck. Another DOTD worker was standing in the bed of the Ford and was ejected from the vehicle.
The driver of the logging truck suffered injuries as well and was taken to the hospital. Police do not suspect impairment to be a factor in the crash but submitted routine toxicology samples for analysis.
The area was closed for about six hours while first responders worked to assist those involved and investigate the scene.
LaDOTD released a statement on the crash Thursday afternoon.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to Chris Gray’s family. Chris was diligently doing his job for the citizens of our state when this heartbreaking incident occurred,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D. “Having to inform the loved ones of somebody killed in a preventable accident is by far the most difficult part of being secretary. We wish a speedy recovery to Jalen Singleton, who was seriously injured, and we are thankful that Mario Ross was released from medical care. The department can’t stress enough the importance of not driving distracted, especially in an active construction zone. Pay attention to your surroundings and slow down when you see workers and equipment…not only for their safety but also for yours.”
The LaDOTD Public Relations Director Rodney Mallett asks the public to be aware of the safety needs in work zones. He says driving patterns need to change and drivers need to be careful of crews working on the roads.
The crash is under investigation by the Louisiana State Police.