08/02/2003

Two Deputies Killed in Collision in LA

Officer Down: Harrelson & Champagne - [Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office, Louisiana]

The Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office is suffering an “irreplaceable loss” today as it mourns two of its detectives who were killed in a car crash Thursday afternoon as they rushed to the scene of another accident involving an elderly woman, Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre said.

Kurt “Woody” Harrelson, 31, of Raceland, and Chaney Champagne, 45, of Lockport, were traveling along La. 308 near the Lafourche Parish Water District No. 1 office in Mathews when the accident occurred, Webre said Thursday night.

The detectives were on their way to Thibodaux to have several warrants signed by a judge, the sheriff said. It was shortly before 3:30 p.m. when a call came over the radio regarding the other accident, in which a woman had gone off the roadway into a canal near U.S. 90.

“The detectives apparently were going to that scene, with their emergency lights flashing, having realized that they were one of the units closest to the accident,” Webre said. “Just north of the water plant, the police car spun out of control and struck a cargo truck delivering seafood.”

According to a Louisiana State Police report, Harrelson was driving through a slight curve in the road when the unmarked 1998 Crown Victoria spun about 180 degrees and skidded into the southbound lane, hitting the truck.

“The rear of the car hit the front of the truck,” Webre said. “The trunk and the rear seat were smashed in and the car was crushed like an accordion. Because of the rear impact of the crash, the officers were not afforded the protection of a front-end crash. There are no rear airbags.”

Both detectives were killed instantly, Webre said.

The truck driver, Clarence Charpentier, 63, of Galliano, received minor injuries in the crash, the State Police report said. He was taken to St. Anne General Hospital in Raceland, treated and released.

Alcohol is not suspected in the crash, but blood tests were done per state law, the report said. All three men were wearing seat belts and no charges have been filed.

Information about the initial accident was scarce this morning, but Webre said the woman was rescued from the canal, where she was trapped in her car. Her condition was unknown before press time.

Webre was subdued Thursday night as he talked of the accident that left a “gaping hole” in his detectives’ division.

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