It’s known in Des Allemands as “dead man’s curve,” but wrecks there haven’t just taken the lives of drivers – they have also disturbed the peace of the dead.
“For years, there have been a lot of accidents where Old Spanish Trail meets Shell Mound Road,” Councilman Paul Hogan said. “It’s dangerous because the road takes a very hard S-curve, and if a car is traveling fast, it can go off the road.”
During Memorial Day weekend, a vehicle did just that, according to Des Allemands resident Virt Poindexter. And instead of following the road around Shell Mound Cemetery, the truck crashed through it, breaking open several graves and leaving the caskets exposed.
They remain exposed until insurance can pay for the repairs.
“It’s bad,” Poindexter said. “This has been a huge problem in this area because accidents occur here often. There needs to be something in place to prevent this from happening.”
The recent accident carries extra importance for Poindexter because three of the graves that were destroyed are those of her father and two brothers.
“My daughter was driving by on May 24 and told me that a truck was sitting on the graves,” she said. “The man got out of the truck and tried to run into the swamp where he passed out. Deputies had to get a stretcher to get the man to the hospital.”
Poindexter rushed to the scene and was shocked by what she saw.
“Their three graves were all busted up,” she said. “I was really hurting and someone came up to me and told me that if they had seen their family members’ graves like that they would have passed out.
“I told them that I have to stay strong and pray that God holds me up because I am the one that is going to have to deal with the problem.”
The area where the cemetery resides was formerly an Indian grave mound. When the railroad was constructed, it was actually built right through the mound. Centuries later, a graveyard for parish residents sprang up on the other side.
Since Old Spanish Trail has to wrap around that land, it has two sharp turns, which have proven dangerous for drivers over the years. Poindexter said that the sharp curve signs that dot the area used to have reflectors, but they have all been removed.
“I have to drive down that road every day because I work in Boutte and live near the cemetery,” Poindexter said. “Even if you know the curve is there, it’s still dangerous.”
Fellow Des Allemands resident James Smith was part of a contingent of concerned citizens that dug a deep ditch to try to keep vehicles out of the graveyard.
“Now that the ditch is there, it seems like we have a vehicle in it almost every weekend,” he said.
However, as was recently illustrated during Memorial Day weekend, that doesn’t always happen.
Council President Terry Authement, who joined Hogan to meet with several concerned citizens at the graveyard on June 22, tried to get a barrier installed along the road during his last council term.
“It’s a very dangerous area,” he said. “I knew a young man who wrecked there and was paralyzed as a result of the accident.
“He passed away a couple of years later.”
Authement said that the state told him they would only put signs up to let residents know that a curve existed.
“And they had reflectors at one time, but every time the signs get clipped, the reflectors fall off,” he said.
Hogan, who took several pictures of the exposed graves during the meeting, pledged to send them on to the state and work with Authement to contact Rep. Gary Smith and Sen. Joel Chiasson about the situation.
But until some type of barrier or other measure is taken to protect drivers along the road, Poindexter knows that the graves of her father and two brothers will remain in jeopardy.
“I was hurting at the time and I will continue to hurt until something is done,” she said.