The brutal cold front that has taken hold of the New Orleans area apparently claimed the life of an 8-month-old boy in Metairie on Wednesday morning, when the car his mother was driving slipped from an icy bridge and plunged into a drainage canal.
The accident that killed Kollage Le-Silva was one of at least two in the area to result in deaths Wednesday, when many local traffic arteries froze over during a record-breaking cold snap.
About five hours earlier, a man standing on Interstate 10 in New Orleans following a crash was killed by a car that spun out of control on the slick highway and slammed into him.
Kollage Le spent Wednesday morning with his son and the boy's mom when they all had to part ways because the parents had to go to work.
In the Metairie crash, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto said, Kollage's mother was driving over a small bridge "completely covered in ice" when she lost control, flipped over a curb, and rolled into the canal dividing West Esplanade Avenue near Wilson Drive about 9:35 a.m.
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Kollage's father, Kollage Le, said the mother was going to drop their son off at a babysitter's down the street from where she worked. He said they had all been together just minutes before the accident occurred and split up because he had to work as well.
"It just happened," Kollage Le said. "There's nothing to say."
Dave Tibbetts, the chief of the fire department serving Metairie, said members of his agency arrived at the scene in less than four minutes and pulled the woman and infant out of the small gold Nissan SUV, which was in 3 or 4 feet of water.
The firefighters had help from passers-by, Tibbetts said.
Paramedics took the woman to East Jefferson General Hospital and the boy to Tulane Medical Center Lakeside, where he was pronounced dead.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency across Louisiana due to winter weather conditions.
Tibbetts said paramedics chose those facilities rather than the highly regarded trauma center at University Medical Center in New Orleans in part because of the icy roads.
Lopinto said neither Kollage nor the woman was awake when they were pulled from the canal. He said the woman's injuries were "very serious," and she remained in critical condition later Wednesday.
Her name was not released.
Lopinto added that the accident illustrated the danger of driving on slippery roads.
"Use this as a reminder ... to stay home," he said. "We don't need any more of this."
As he spoke, a child's blue-and-red bouncer seat floated in the canal nearby, apparently having drifted out of the Nissan that was mangled in the accident.
Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni acknowledged that some residents have pushed the parish to install guardrails along the canals lining major thoroughfares such as West Esplanade, West Metairie Avenue and Veterans Memorial Boulevard.
It was really cold – historically cold, in fact – Wednesday morning in southeast Louisiana.
A number of cars have plunged into such canals, and occasionally those in the vehicles have died.
Yet Yenni said he doubted guardrails — which can be costly — would have been able to stop a vehicle that both flipped and rolled.
He said he would rather have people listen to the parish officials who urged residents to stay at home or drive slowly if they must hit the roads. "Many people are following that advice," Yenni said. "This is concrete proof of why."
The New Orleans accident occurred about 4:45 a.m. and killed a 57-year-old man who was standing near a Ford Explorer that had been involved in a crash in the westbound lanes of I-10 near Franklin Avenue.
The Explorer was facing the wrong direction and apparently startled a woman driving past in a Toyota Tundra. Police said she tried to avoid passing near the Explorer and hit her brakes but spun out on the ice.
The Tundra hit the Explorer, which in turn knocked the man standing nearby off the elevated highway and onto the ground several feet below.
Officials pronounced the man dead at the scene. They said the Tundra's driver and two passengers were taken to a hospital for treatment.
The Tundra's driver showed no signs of being impaired, investigators added.
Staff writer Faimon A. Roberts III contributed to this report.