A lawsuit filed in court last week identified the alleged driver of a car that struck and presumably killed a construction worker on the Hale Boggs bridge on Jan. 14.
22-year-old Hunter Johnson of Reserve was named as the driver in the suit, which was filed on behalf of the victim’s widow, Adele Ortego, and stepdaughter, Kyleigh Brown, in an Orleans Parish civil court. The victim, 44-year-old Brady Ortego, was sent over the side of the bridge and into the Mississippi River. He remains missing but is presumed dead. The construction crew was installing electrical equipment at the time of the incident.
The lawsuit also named Johnson’s mother, Pebbles, as a defendant, claiming she picked up her son from near the scene of the accident and proceeded to hide him from law enforcement officers at a nearby hotel. The suit alleges the two hid in order to avoid potential criminal charges and civil litigation. Eyewitnesses said, following the accident, that someone had picked up the driver and brought him for treatment at St. Charles Parish Hospital.
The suit claims Johnson was intoxicated following an extended period of drinking at a Hooter’s restaurant. It also claims that Johnson reached out to Adele Ortego in the weeks following the accident, doing so via social media, and in doing so inflicted emotional distress upon the widow.
As the family pursues unspecified damages through the civil court process, the criminal process surrounding the situation is the subject of controversy. To date, no arrest has been made. According to a report by WWL-TV, several people provided Johnson’s name to State Police investigators only a few days following the incident, and the station also revealed the truck Johnson was driving has been returned to his Reserve home.
State police say Johnson remains under investigation.
Traffic Solutions Louisiana LLC was also named in the lawsuit as a defendant, as well as several insurance companies.
According to Monroe Dillon of the Louisiana State Police, at approximately 1 a.m. on the day of the accident, an F-150 truck traveling south on Interstate-10 near the bridge left the roadway and into a construction zone on the right shoulder of the road, sideswiping two vehicles. A construction worker was struck in the incident and was sent over the side of the bridge.
The driver of the truck reportedly fled on foot, triggering a search by the Coast Guard and other authorities.
Last month, Adele Ortego told the St. Charles Herald-Guide that Louisiana State Police have been lacking in terms of providing information and communication since the accident, and that it has added to her pain.
“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.”
When asked if the pace of the Ortego investigation is typical of similar cases, Dillon 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.”