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LAPLACE, La. – Louisiana State Police say a Honduran man who had entered the United States illegally was driving a bus carrying flood recovery workers that hit a firetruck on a highway, killing two people and injuring dozens.
Trooper Melissa Matey says the driver also did not have a commercial license. She says the bus was carrying flood recovery workers Sunday from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.
Matey said the wreck killed Jermaine Starr, 21, of Moss Point, Mississippi, a back-seat passenger in a Camry that the bus rear-ended, and the district fire chief of St. John the Baptist Parish, Spencer Chauvin. The injured included the other two firefighters, the bus driver, 24 bus passengers and a total of nine people in the car and pickups.
She said most injuries were minor to moderate, but that one firefighter is critically injured.
The bus driver, identified as Denis Yasmir Amaya Rodriguez, 37, of Honduras, will be arrested on two counts of negligent homicide and one each of reckless driving and driving without a license, she said.
"Additional criminal charges are forthcoming," she said.
Matey says troopers are investigating whether the bus driver was employed by the owners, or was working for himself or someone who rented the bus.
The ladder truck from St. John the Baptist Parish, west of New Orleans, had parked across the right lane of Interstate 10 to block traffic while police investigated an earlier wreck involving a pickup truck that had skidded on the wet road, crashing into both guardrails about 6:40 a.m., Matey said..
The 2002 Eldorado National party bus hit the fire truck and then rear-ended the 2012 Toyota Camry, pushing it into a flatbed trailer being towed by a 2016 Chevrolet Silverado, Matey said. She said the bus then veered behind the fire truck and into the first pickup truck, a 2005 Nissan Titan. It also knocked three firefighters, who were standing near the guard rail, into the water 30 to 40 feet below.
Firefighter Nicholas Saale, 32, of Ponchatoula, and Camry passenger Vontravous Kelly of Moss Point, Mississippi, were in critical condition after the accident, she said.
Matey said the bus was taking flood recovery workers from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.
It belonged to a company with two names: AM Party Bus and Kristina's Transportation LLC, both at the same address in Jefferson, about 30 miles from New Orleans in Jefferson Parish, Matey said.
No listing in Jefferson was available. A call to Kristina's Transportation in Destrehan, 12 miles from Jefferson in St. Charles Parish, was not answered Sunday. A woman who answered the phone at AM Party Bus of New Orleans said she was only authorized to take booking calls.
Matey did not know where in Honduras Rodriguez is from.
Department of Homeland Security investigators and state police are checking on the passengers' immigration status, she said.
Matey said speed was a factor in both the crash of the Titan, which bounced from one guard rail to the other about 6:40 a.m., and that of the bus at 7:17 a.m.