I-10 WESTBOUND, NEAR WHISKEY BAY, LA — “A wreck on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge that long, I knew I was going to be there for a while”, Jesse Arceneaux told me.
He was stranded 10 hours on the second-longest bridge in the world. You think it would be torture, but the way he put it, “It came down to making the best out of a bad situation”.
Jesse Arceneaux was feet from the deadly wreck that closed interstate 10 westbound for two days.
“Oh god! There’s a fire and there are people”, said Arceneaux. “My first thought was everybody has got to get away from this fire or people are going to get hurt”.
Arceneaux used to be a first responder. When he saw several fuel tanks that could explode, he knew everyone had to evacuate.
“We just started pushing people back”, Arceneaux remembered.
People walked out of their cars in the rain, and what happened next was a surprise.
“It was amazing. People were checking on each other”. Arceneaux explained. “People were opening up their cars for the rain so people could be dry and helping people charge their phones, so they could stay in contact with their family.”
From trucker drivers passing out every bottled water they had to a Swiss vacationer going out of his way to help others. Jesse said the disaster brought out the best in people, “Nobody cared what color anybody was or what religion they were. None of that. It was everybody making sure everybody was okay.”
Even though it’s a testament to Southern hospitality, the memories of the day aren’t all good ones. At least five were injured and a Florida man died. “It’s hard seeing that”, Arceneaux told me.
Cristina Doiron just avoided the crash.
“Traffic in the lane I was in just stopped, and I had to get into the right lane”, she said.
Doiron saw the wreckage as she passed, but Arceneaux never got to go on the other side. He says, “She was a very lucky woman to had passed it when she did”.
Despite the different outcome whether you were behind the crash or in front of it, the end result is the same.
“I’m not going that way”, Doiron told me. “I’ve made that trip several times, and I’ll avoid it”.
Arceneaux has similar feelings toward the Basin Bridge, saying, “That accident had a pretty big effect on me, and I think it will be a while before I travel it again”.