By Katie Urbaszewski / Houma Courier
A teenager who was trapped in a car that crashed then sunk into Bayou Terrebonne early Sunday morning remains on life-support at a New Orleans hospital, family said.
Relatives said they are tearfully watching over Bertha Griffin, 15, in Ochsner Medical Center while grieving for her uncle, Justin Naquin, 18, who died in the same crash after he lost control of his car on La. 55 in Montegut.
Another passenger, 16-year-old Shelia Naquin, escaped from the car through an open window thanks to Justin Naquin, her brother, who pushed her out of the window and to the top of the water because she couldn't swim, said their sister, Cindy Singleton, 29. Shelia Naquin only had a few bruises, and later a few stitches, from the crash.
State Police said they suspect alcohol and high speed were factors in the crash, though tests have not yet confirmed it.
Justin Naquin was on his way to pick up another cousin at the time, Singleton said. With several sisters and brothers, including a twin sister Justina, he loved being with his family.
"He was very outgoing," Singleton said. "He would always make you laugh."
Justin Naquin died from drowning, said his fiance, Marissa Conklin, 17. Conklin and Naquin had a baby boy together, Jordan, who turned 1 in September.
"He was with his kid all the time. … Now all he says is ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,'" Conklin said.
Her fiance "was always happy, like nothing would bring him down," Conklin said.
Conklin and Naquin said they were angry with first-responders who had trouble finding Justin Naquin inside the car after the crash.
Firefighters with the Montegut Volunteer Fire Department, who pulled Griffin out, told Conklin that Justin Naquin might have flown out of the car and floated downstream, but when a wrecker pulled the car out, Justin Naquin was found inside, Conklin said.
Then, "they just left him in there," she said.
Conklin said the crash happened around 1 a.m., and Naquin was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:58 a.m.
Conklin admits that her fiance might not have survived the crash even if he had been found sooner, but "he'd be in the hospital, … and I'd still be able to see him."
The car had sunk so far into the bayou that firefighters had to find it from bubbles on the surface, Montegut District Fire Chief Toby Henry said. Shelia Naquin told them her brother and Griffin had been inside, but she wasn't sure if they had been thrown out.
Firefighters attached winches to the car to pull it closer to bank of the bayou so "we could work," Henry said. However, there was some obstruction in the water, possibly an old bulkhead, which kept a lot of the vehicle inaccessible.
Griffin was easy to reach, Henry said. He estimated the time between the crash and her rescue was at least 20 minutes.
But rescuers had trouble finding Naquin, Henry said.
"You couldn't see him," he said. "We couldn't find him."
Firefighters used a pole to hunt for him, he said. They thought he might have drifted downstream because some of the car windows were open.
The Little Caillou Fire Department also responded to the crash, Henry said.
Naquin was driving a Grand Marquis south on La. 55 when he entered a right curve and lost control, according to State Police Troop C. The car crossed the centerline and slid to the shoulder of the opposite side of the highway. Naquin tried to re-enter the road while braking, which sent the car sliding across both sides of La. 55. Naquin's car crossed the southbound shoulder into grass and started spinning counter-clockwise. The Marquis hit a dock, then rolled over onto its roof as it landed in Bayou Terrebonne and sank.