The woman who jumped off the Hale Boggs Bridge last Thursday was a former St. Charles Borromeo kindergarten teacher.
According to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, police received a call at 6:43 p.m. on Thursday that Debbie Johnson, of Destrehan, had stopped her vehicle in the emergency lane on top of the bridge. A witness told authorities that she saw Johnson, 55, exit the car, run to the railing and jump into the water below.
Her body was recovered later that night near Ama.
Johnson began teaching at St. Charles Borromeo in 1985 and taught until 2009. She retired because of health problems, according to Ronald Rodrigue, administrative assistant at the school.
“Even though she was not Catholic, she came to our masses here and she was so loud in her singing and praising,” Rodrigue said. “We assumed she was Catholic all of this time.”
Rodrigue said he coached Johnson’s daughter in T-ball and that Johnson had a lot of team spirit.
“She was animated all the time. When her daughter would hit the ball she would run along with her to first base,” Rodrigue said. “She was hooting and hollering and everyone would remember her being very spirited.”
Johnson was the fourth person who has jumped off of the Hale Boggs Bridge and died in less than a year.
Last September, a disabled man parked at the top of the bridge and used a wheelchair to get to the bridge’s railing. After he hoisted himself onto the railing, an officer tried to talk him down for several minutes, but the man eventually fell into the water.
Last October, 20-year-old Gretna resident Jake Bodden jumped off of the Hale Boggs.
His body was recovered by family members four days later.Jack Culotta, who was the managing partner of The Culotta Law Firm, jumped off the bridge last month. His body was pulled out of the river near the ADM Growmark grain elevator.
A witness saw Culotta pull over his white Ford Explorer at the top of the bridge, exit the SUV and jump over the railing without any hesitation.Reporter Kyle Barnett contributed to this article.