A series of crashes Thursday morning across the Baton Rouge area killed two drivers and led to significant slowdowns along major highways and interstates leading in and out of the capital city.
State and local emergency officials responded to at least three major wrecks ahead of the morning rush hour: a crash involving four 18-wheelers on Interstate 10 in Iberville Parish, an overtipped tanker truck on I-10 in Ascension Parish, and car that caught fire after crashing into a pole along Airline Highway in Baton Rouge.
Louisiana State Police spokesman Taylor Scrantz said authorities responded around 8 a.m. along I-10 near Grosse Tete after the driver of a Freightliner hit the back another commercial truck and then slammed into two others parked in the shoulder.
Authorities said 82-year-old Robert McCarty of Caldwell, Texas had stopped to check on his truck after a previous accident and was standing on the shoulder when the other truck hit him. He suffered fatal injuries.
Three other drivers suffered injuries that State Police described as ranging from minor to moderate.
Police identified the driver of the Freightliner as Datril Dunbar, 35, of Sebring, Florida. A call to a phone number listed to his trucking business wasn't answered Thursday afternoon.
State Police said they were continuing to investigate what caused Dunbar to hit the other trucks but didn't immediately issue any charges or citations. Scrantz said investigators don't suspect any of the drivers were impaired.
The wreckage blocked a lane of westbound traffic for several hours, causing a 14-mile backup that extended to the opposite side of the Mississippi River Bridge.
Officials reopened both lanes around 2:30 p.m., but state traffic maps still showed significant slowdowns lasting into the evening rush hour.
Earlier in the morning, a tanker truck hauling 2,000 pounds of propane overturned while driving east on I-10 near Prairieville. State Police said crews had to unload the fuel before they could clear the truck during the morning commute that clogged traffic headed into Baton Rouge.
The congestion appeared to have cleared by Thursday afternoon, and no one was hurt in that crash, according to State Police.
Emergency crews earlier responded to a fiery crash after 4 a.m. along Airline Highway near Cedarcrest Drive when a driver veered off the road. Authorities haven't identified the driver who they said died at the scene.
A Baton Rouge police spokesman said the driver had been speeding and veered off the road before striking a traffic light pole. The crash caused the car to catch on fire, which made it difficult to immediately identify the driver, police said. They said they were awaiting the results of a DNA test.