Family offers $5K reward for info regarding accident

Surveillance photo of truck that appeared to strike cable, leading to James Kynerd's accident.

It’s a familiar refrain in the home of Jenna Braud-Ritzmann, words born of earnest hope yet heartbreaking all the same.

“When will paw paw wake up?” is what Braud- Ritzmann’s 8-year-old son Andrew often asks about his 61-year-old grandfather James Kynerd , who for months has been in a minimally conscious state due to the aftereffects of a catastrophic accident he suffered in August of last year.

For Braud-Ritzmann, Andrew’s words are an ongoing reminder to stay strong for her family and for her children in the aftermath of her father’s accident. But all too often, she’s left asking herself the same question that’s cruelly lingered over her family for the past several months.

“Is this the day my dad is going to die?”

On Aug. 26 at around 5:30 a.m., Kynerd left his home and began traveling down St. Anthony Street on his Suzuki motorcycle. The Luling man was out early to complete his weekly ritual of teaching at a local karate studio, where he holds a third-degree black belt.

A short time beforehand, a dually truck towing a two-car carrier trailer made the trip down St. Anthony. Residential camera footage showed the truck’s load striking a low-hanging cable, clipped by what appears may have been a Ford F-150 the auto carrier was carrying on top. The cable, now hanging well below its normal level, became a hazard Kynerd could not see in the darkness. When he arrived at that spot, the cable struck him in his exposed throat area with extreme force, clotheslining him off his bike.

Kynerd’s wife Vanessa said video shows the truck driver stopping and getting out of his vehicle, checking behind him, then driving off. Police thus far have not been able to identify the vehicle using the limited residential camera footage capturing the incident.

Dennis Street, a local critical care nurse who happened to be passing by, saw Kynerd bleeding and in dire need of help, and immediately jumped into action. Recognizing Kynerd may have had just minutes left to live in his injured state, Street placed Kynerd into his own vehicle and drove him directly to the local hospital, saving his life.

Kynerd was given emergency care and airlifted to University Hospital. His trachea injury stabilized but the situation led to severe complications, including a blood clot and multiple strokes. He was unable to breathe on his own, unable to eat or speak, and had little use of his left side.

After a little more than two months, he beat the odds and returned home. But five days later, Kynerd went into cardiac arrest. He was hospitalized in November and has been in a minimally conscious state – a person who shows clear but minimal or inconsistent awareness – and bedridden since.

“It’s hard. It’s very hard,” said Vanessa. “He requires 24-7 care. When we say minimally conscious, they think, ‘oh, he’s talking.’ No. He’ll open his eyes. He’ll look at you. But that’s all.

“Somebody has to be at this house 24-7. I’ve lost so much time with our family … I really don’t sleep. I cat nap when he’s finally resting good.”

Kynerd has gone through 39 hyperbaric chamber treatments. Vanessa said that medically, all options have been exhausted.

“It has to be a miracle from God. That’s the only way,” Vanessa said of a recovery.

To date, nothing has turned up in terms of identifying the man on video who struck the cable.

Perhaps most frustrating of all, Vanessa said, was the apparent lack of any care for the danger the situation could cause for someone.

“Put out a cone – anything, a warning,” she said. “If he would have just put something there.”

With the truck driver appearing to be involved in the incident nowhere to be found, Kynerd’s own motorcycle insurance policy only had collision related coverage, and thus had no coverage for the devastating injury,

The family is seeking justice for Kynerd and has offered a $5,000 reward for any information that can lead to finding the truck, the trailer, the driver’s company or anything else that could lead to identifying the driver who struck the cable that night.

“Somebody’s got to know this person,” Vanessa said. “If this happened to your loved one … your mother, your father, your husband, your children, anyone in your family, you’d know exactly what we’re going through. We need justice for him. He’s a good man, a good Christian man.”

The constant uncertainty surrounding his health situation has weighed on Vanessa and her family greatly.

Braud-Ritzmann said Kynerd and her son have always been “the best of friends.”

“They were inseparable,” Braud-Ritzmann said. “(Kynerd and Andrew) did so much together.”

Her daughter Emma is about to turn 4 and Braud-Ritzmann knows it will be difficult to explain the situation to her.

Vanessa said her husband has always been as devoted a grandfather as there is.

“He loves his grand babies – they were here all the time at maw maw and paw paw day care,” Vanessa said.

The Kynerds moved to Luling from Jefferson Parish shortly before Hurricane Ida struck in 2021. The couple had then returned to St. Charles Parish to live closer to Braud-Ritzmann and their grandchildren, who also live in Luling.

Anyone with information may call Vanessa Kynerd at (504) 417-6281.

 

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