Sailfish waitress Paula Nazio, 40, passed away on Jan. 17 from serious injuries she sustained a day earlier when her Toyota SUV was pushed across the median into a bus carrying 30 Hahnville High School students, according to the Louisiana State Police.
The incident began when 45-year-old Richard T. Laurent, of Harvey, was traveling westbound on Highway 90 and struck the rear of Nazio’s SUV on Jan. 16 around 3 p.m. The SUV then crossed the median of the highway and entered the eastbound lanes, where it struck the school bus head-on.
The bus then traveled off the roadway and entered a drainage ditch. Authorities say Laurent was intoxicated at the time of the wreck.
As a result of the crash, Nazio, Laurent and the driver of the school bus, Earl “Pie” Tastet, were transported to St. Charles Parish Hospital by ambulance. Three students were also sent to the hospital by ambulance, while the other 27 students were transferred to another bus and then brought to the hospital. All students were examined and released that night.
“The students were transported to the hospital just to get checked out,” School spokeswoman Regina McMillan said. “I was told that the bus driver did an excellent job during the accident and maneuvered the bus in a way that minimized impact.
“The children also did an outstanding job evacuating the school bus in a timely manner while remaining calm.”
Tastet was treated and released with moderate injuries, while Nazio, who had suffered serious injuries in the crash, passed away about 18 hours after the accident.
Laurent was treated for minor injuries, released from the hospital and arrested. He was initially booked by the Louisiana State Police in St. Charles Parish on the charges of driving while intoxicated (1st offense), reckless operation of a motor vehicle, seatbelt violation and 31 counts of negligent injury .
After Nazio’s death, Laurent was rebooked on an additional charge of vehicular homicide. Laurent is being held at the Nelson-Coleman Correction Center with no bond, according to St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Pat Yoes.
Louie’s Wrecker Service was called on to tow the vehicles, and called another company from Orleans Parish to assist with the bus.
Clint Jacob, from Jake’s Towing, said that decision led to Highway 90 being shut down for longer than it should have been.
“It would have taken us minutes to respond to the wreck because we were right there,” Jacob said. “Instead, Highway 90 was shut down for hours.”