It was six weeks ago that a driver crossing the Hale Boggs Bridge struck four construction workers. While three suffered only minor injuries, the fourth, 44-year-old Brady Ortego, was thrown from the bridge and fell more than 150 feet into the Mississippi River.
His body is still missing.
Adele Domingue Ortego, Brady’s widow, said her husband was one of the most loving and generous men anyone could ever have the pleasure of meeting.
“He wasn’t a very tall man, but his spirt and character and personality were larger than life,” Adele said of her husband. “No one who ever met him didn’t fall in love with him. He greeted everyone with a hug, and he would have given up anything for anybody … he was just that kind of person.”
Adele said the pain of losing Brady has been compounded by the lack of information and communication from Troop B of the Louisiana State Police, who is handling the investigation.
What is known of the accident, Adele said, is that the driver of the truck that hit the workers left the accident on foot. According to multiple accounts and eyewitnesses, the driver was injured, picked up by someone near the bridge and treated at St. Charles Parish Hospital.
There have also been eyewitness reports of a passenger who remained at the scene.
“The cops didn’t go after him that night for some reason,” Adele said of the driver, adding she and Brady’s extended family have received information from different eyewitnesses and friends and family members of the driver. “Information has been funneled to us. Within the first 24 hours we knew names and in the first week we had a lot more information. There was one week in particular a lot of information came in …. little pieces here and there … I won’t rest until I turn over every stone.”
Adele said one email and two phone calls are all she’s ever received from the state police.
“This has been hard for me. This has been a hard pill for me to swallow,” Adele said of the fact that there’s been no arrest yet. “This one’s tough … I have so much information that’s not public knowledge. It’s mind boggling to me that somebody is even ok with just continuing to go on with their daily life.”
Last week WWL-TV followed up on eyewitness information, which included the address of the alleged driver. A reporting crew took film footage of a wrecked pickup truck sitting in front of the house. The heavily damaged front end was draped by a tarp.
“I was very against doing anything in the media, but as time has gone on … I think things would just have slowly disappeared,” Adele said, adding the alleged driver’s family is deeply connected in local political systems. “Something is not right. I was always uneasy but tried to give the state police a chance. There’s just such a lack of information … three weeks ago a call came with charges, but no arrest has been made.”
When asked if the pace of the Ortego investigation is typical of similar cases, State Police spokesman Trooper Monroe Dillon only issued the following statement: “LSP is continuing to investigate the hit and run crash that occurred on the Interstate 310 Hale Boggs Bridge on January 14th, 2021. At the conclusion of the investigation, troopers will present physical evidence, as well as findings from the scene, to the St. Charles Parish District Attorney for consultation of criminal charges. The investigation is ongoing and there is no additional information available at this time.”
Adele said she will not rest until justice has been served and urges anyone with information in the case to contact law enforcement.
“In all honesty, for me, even if the gentleman who is responsible for my husband’s death never does a day in jail … there’s a sense of peace for me because before he never really had to associate a face and a name to the accident and now, he has to acknowledge and see it and accept it. At a minimum, that brings me some sense of peace.”