BREAUX BRIDGE — Books and pencils. A backpack and pair of glasses. A lone sneaker. A math worksheet.
The belongings of three teenage girls lay strewn about Martin Street in Breaux Bridge on Thursday morning after a pickup State Police say was driven by 32-year-old Jeremy J. Abraham barreled down the road, hitting the girls before crashing into a utility pole.
Cornasha Flugence, 15, died at the scene, while 14-year-old Kylee Henry succumbed to her injuries at St. Martin Hospital. Cornasha’s sister Niya Flugence, 13, was airlifted to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, where she’s being treated for serious injuries, according to KATC-TV.
The girls were on their way to school.
Moments before the crash, Codney Amest had watched her 7-year-old son and two nieces, aged 4 and 7, get on the bus when she heard the truck speeding down the road about 7:30 a.m.
The 2007 Ford went off the road and into her ditch, Amest said, knocking out her cement sidewalk before crashing into the utility pole on the street’s corner.
A snarled piece of red metal came to rest on the far side of the intersection near her house at the corner of Martin and Arnaud streets.
“When I looked back, I saw somebody dead,” Amest said. “I started screaming and called 911.”
Codney’s cousin, Apollonia Amest, lives across the street. She said the sound of the crash roused her from sleep.
“I thought I heard the city working on the street,” she said. “I just woke up to see some kids fighting for their life.”
Both women said they saw the driver crawl out of the back window of the truck and into the ditch. As he lay on the ground disoriented, they said, he kept claiming he wasn’t the driver who hit the girls.
Apollonia Amest said she threw rocks at him. He soon tried to flee the scene.
State Police caught Abraham down the street from where the accident happened, and he remains in critical condition at Lafayette General Medical Center, spokesman Jared Sandifer said.
The nature of his injuries was not specified. A toxicology report is pending, although impairment is a possible factor in the crash, Sandifer said.
Neighborhood residents on Thursday flooded the streets, where there are no sidewalks but where a neighborhood full of elementary, middle and high school students walk to and from school each day.
“There’s no cop back here when the kids go to school,” said Sharlene Potier, standing in front of her mother’s home at the corner of Arnaud and Zimmerman streets — four houses down from the accident.
Potier complained that drivers often speed down the roads there, but there aren’t speed bumps to slow them down.
Her young cousins were herded onto the bus minutes before the accident happened.
“He would have hit all of them, if not,” Potier said.
Counselors were dispatched to all Breaux Bridge public schools, said Lottie Beebe, St. Martin Parish School System superintendent.
“It’s a shock to the community,” Beebe said. “Breaux Bridge is close-knit community, and certainly many children heard about the accident before they went on campus.”
Beebe said counselors with the district’s school-based health services department will remain available for those affected by the accident.
“Our counselors will be available in the upcoming weeks and months, whatever time is needed,” Beebe said. “They will be available to assist our students and educators.”
On Thursday night, more than a hundred adults and children, some in Halloween costumes, gathered at Judge Carl Williams Park for a candlelit memorial in the girls’ memory with prayers led by community pastors.
Sylvia Egland teaches the 4-year-old sister of Kylee.
“I had to come here to support her,” Egland said.
At one point, the Flugences’ brother, 19-year-old Marcus Thibeaux, announced Niya made it out of a successful surgery.
A chorus of praise rang out in the crowd.
“The Lord is good!”
Advocate staff writer Richard Burgess and KATC-TV contributed to this report.