JEFF DAVIS PARISH, LA (KPLC) - Just before 5:30 this evening a green 1997 Chevrolet Suburban was traveling westbound on I-10 near mile marker 44. Just moments later, it was laying upside in the median with three of the four passengers ejected, including an 11-month-old.
A one vehicle accident turned fatal in just minutes after claiming the lives of 65-year-old Gwendolyn Jernigan and 22-year-old Toya Dynae Williams, both of Port Arthur, TX.
"It appears that a SUV was heading west on the interstate," said James Anderson with LA State Police Troop D. "The right rear tire blew, and the driver lost control."
Three of the four passengers did not have on seat belts and were ejected from the vehicle. Only the restrained driver, 22-year-old Jeremy Marquis Williams of Port Arthur, TX, remained in the vehicle when it came to a rest on its roof in the median. Two passengers were transported by helicopter to hospitals.
Westbound lanes of the interstate had to be shut down Acadian Ambulance Med Flight helicopters could land. One passenger was pronounced dead at the scene and one died later the hospital as a result of injuries. The driver and the young passenger survived.
"We have a toddler who has moderate injuries at a local hospital," said Anderson. "The driver currently has moderate injuries. Had a seatbelt on, and that driver survived."
Anderson says the tragic accident should reinforce the importance of seat belts.
"Unfortunately this is a classic example of what happens when someone wears a seatbelt and they live which is a good thing," said Anderson. "And unfortunately somebody doesn't wear a seat belt and the outcome isn't what we hope for."
Anderson labels seat belts as the number one defense mechanism drivers have while operating a vehicle.
"Please wear your seat belt," said Anderson. "It's the simplest thing you can do to keep yourself safe in the event of a crash. You're much safer inside of a vehicle than outside of a vehicle in the event of a crash so please wear your seat belt."
Several witnesses said they arrived at the scene just moments after it happened. They say they stopped to administer help which included CPR until paramedics arrived on the scene.
The accident is still under investigation and routine toxicology tests are pending.