I-12 crash

The burned out shell of an 18-wheeler is pictured following a fiery accident that occurred May 26 on Interstate 12 in the Covington area. 

St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Charles Preston on Friday released the name of the driver of an 18-wheeler involved in a fiery crash May 26 on Interstate 12 in Covington that killed four people and injured a dozen more.

The crash began when the 18-wheeler, which was hauling avocados, didn't stop as it approached stalled traffic, officials said. 

Elmer J. Laporte, 80, of Edinburg, Texas, was the driver of the big rig that plowed into other vehicles on eastbound I-12 between the La. 21 exit and the Tchefuncte River Bridge.

Preston said Laporte died of "blunt force trauma and thermal injuries." 

"We located Mr. Laporte's family in Pennsylvania and arranged for collection and shipment of DNA samples," Preston said in a statement Friday. "Those samples arrived yesterday, and by this afternoon we were able to confirm Laporte's identity."

He added, "We continue to remember those killed in the wreck and their families, and appreciate the hard work of our investigators and DNA technicians in confirming this identification quickly."

Yolanda Simmons, 44, and Keland Simmons, 24, both of Baton Rouge, and Rachel Lehmann, 63, of Mandeville, were also killed in the multiple-vehicle wreck that shut down portions of I-12 for hours.
 
Lehmann died of blunt force trauma. The Simmonses died of blunt force trauma and thermal injuries.
 
The accident led St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister and other area leaders to ask Gov. John Bel Edwards and the state Department of Transportation and Development to expedite plans to widen I-12 in the Covington area. Work to expand the highway in that location is not expected to begin until at least 2023.
 
Brister said Thursday that having to wait five years "is not acceptable." 
 
State Police are still investigating the crash, a spokesman said.