Hammond man killed in crash on I-55 near Independence
From Louisiana State Police
Independence, LA- Shortly after 1:00 PM today, Troopers from Louisiana State Police Troop L responded to a two vehicle fatal crash on Interstate 55 north of LA 40 in Tangipahoa Parish. The crash has claimed the life of 56 year-old Hammond resident Michael R. Varnado and injured two others.
The initial on-scene investigation led Troopers to determine that the crash occurred as 34 year-old Carlton W. Walker of Roseland, LA was driving a 2007 Kia Sportage northbound on Interstate 55 in the right lane. Traffic ahead of Walker was slowing due to congestion. For reasons still under investigation, Walker failed to slow for the congested traffic and crashed into the rear of a 2012 Volvo Tractor-Trailer. Despite being properly restrained, Walker’s front seat passenger Michael R. Varnado was severely injured in the crash. He was pronounced deceased on-scene by the Tangipahoa Parish Coroner’s Office. Walker and another passenger in the vehicle, 40 year-old Melanie Mathis, were both transported from the scene by Acadian Ambulance to North Oaks Health System. Walker and Mathis were both being treated for moderate injuries sustained in the crash. The driver of the tractor-trailer, 50 year-old Hattiesburg, MS resident Wesley Moody, was not injured in the crash.
Impairment is not presently suspected to have been a factor in this crash. As part of the on-going investigation, Troopers obtained blood samples from Walker. The samples will be sent to the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab for analysis. Moody provided Troopers with a voluntary breath sample, which showed no amounts of alcohol present. Pending the outcome of the investigation, any criminal charges will be forwarded to the Tangipahoa Parish District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
While the cause of this crash remains under investigation, Troopers would like to reiterate the importance of avoiding distractions while driving. Distracted driving continues to be a problem on Louisiana roadways. Statistics show that in 2014 Nationwide, 179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers (Distraction.gov). Please take a moment and speak to your loved ones about the importance of safe decisions behind the wheel. The conversation you have today could be all the difference tomorrow.