The wife of a Gonzales man who drowned inside his vehicle during May flooding on Bluebonnet Boulevard near the Mall of Louisiana is suing the state and city-parish, claiming a lack of barricades created a death "trap."

The wrongful death lawsuit says the area under the railroad overpass on Bluebonnet began to flood around 9 p.m. on May 17, and Justin Thompson drove into the area at 12:50 a.m. on May 18.

"Bystanders called and reported to 911 dispatch that they saw Justin Thompson in his car fighting for his life and he later succumbed to the raging flood waters," the lawsuit states.

The body of Thompson, 33, wasn't found until 10:30 a.m. on May 18,

The lawsuit, filed last week in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, alleges the state Department of Transportation and Development and the city-parish "had actual and/or constructive knowledge notice of the unreasonably safe conditions on the highway and failed to act reasonably under the circumstances."

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The lawsuit claims DOTD and the city-parish are at fault "in creating a trap for the motoring public ... by not providing a barricade when there was actual and constructive notice of the flooded out roadway."

DOTD spokesman Rodney Mallett and Parish Attorney Andy Dotson said Wednesday the department and city-parish do not comment on pending litigation.

Most people who got stuck under the railroad overpass were able to escape their vehicles, which then floated into deeper water and formed a pile blocking the street.

Some areas of East Baton Rouge received up to 13.7 inches of rain that night, and more than 250 people needed to be rescued from flooding homes and vehicles.

Attorney Shannon Battiste represents the Thompson family.


Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.

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