Teen girl killed in 3-vehicle I-10 crash late Thursday; New Orleans police looking for driver who fled _lowres

Kayla Lagarde

Police were searching Friday for a driver who fled the scene of a fatal crash in New Orleans East that claimed the life of a 14-year-old rising sophomore at G.W. Carver Preparatory Academy’s high school.

The crash happened about 11:15 p.m. Thursday on westbound Interstate 10 near the Bullard Avenue exit, according to authorities. Police said the girl, identified by the Coroner’s Office as Kayla Lagarde, died at the scene.

“She always had a smile on her face, and she was energetic, everything about her,” said friend Darnell Wilson, a senior at the school. “She had her head on straight.”

Lagarde was traveling in the rear seat of a four-door Pontiac Grand Am with an unidentified woman at the wheel and another passenger in the front right seat. About a half-mile before the Bullard exit, police said, the car was struck from the rear by a burgundy Nissan Maxima driven by a man.

The Nissan Maxima then veered into the left lane and struck a black 2012 Dodge Ram truck on its right rear side, police said. Neither the driver nor a passenger in that vehicle was injured.

After the multiple-vehicle crash, the Maxima’s driver fled on foot.

Both the Pontiac’s driver and the other passenger were taken to the hospital, but Lagarde could not be saved. The coroner said she died from “multiple blunt force injuries.”

Fellow students at Carver expressed shock that someone could simply run from the scene after Lagarde, who played softball and participated on the Ramettes dance squad, was killed.

“That could have been your child in the car,” Wilson said. “What if that was you in that car? You would have wanted somebody to at least call an ambulance, see if you was breathing or something. You treated them like they were a rag dog or something.”

Police asked anyone with information about the driver or the incident to call Detective Michael Baldassaro at (504) 658-6210.

Lagarde was the second victim of an apparent hit-and-run in the New Orleans area this month.

Shortly before 2 a.m. June 1, according to the State Police, 58-year-old Otis Harris was riding a bicycle on the shoulder of the Earhart Expressway southbound in Jefferson Parish near the Orleans Parish line.

Police said he was struck by a 1998 or 1999 Toyota Avalon that then fled the scene. The vehicle is suspected to have sustained heavy front-end damage in the crash.

At that point, police said, another vehicle also struck Harris.

State Trooper Melissa Matey said Friday that the investigation of Harris’ death is ongoing.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact State Police Troop B at (504) 471-2775.