Week of tragedy for family of man who died in I-10 crash

Week of tragedy for family of man who died in I-10 crash

Week of tragedy for family of man who died in I-10 crash

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wwltv.com

Posted on December 18, 2011 at 7:23 AM

Updated Sunday, Dec 18 at 10:16 AM

Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS-- For Stephen Baptiste and his family, it has been a week of immense tragedy and sorrow.

"The preacher said this morning at my mother's funeral: 'what a difference a day makes,'" he said.

On Friday, Baptiste arrived in town for his mother's funeral. His brother, 48-year-old Mitchell Baptiste, headed to the airport to pick him up. He never made it there.

His Nissan Altima was clipped by a Black Nissan on I-10 near the Metairie Road exit. Mitchell's car slammed into a lightpost and caught on fire. He died at the scene; the other vehicle fled.

Meanwhile, his brother, Stephen, waited at the airport. When Mitchell didn't show, Stephen tried to reach him, eventually sending him a message that he would catch a cab.

"The cab driver told me there had been a bad accident on the highway," Stephen Baptiste said. "And I said, 'Oh, lord. I can't get in touch with my brother. He's going to be mad because I'm leaving and he's coming to get me, fighting through traffic'-- not even stopping to think about that."

Stephen Baptiste went to Danny's Divine Designs on Broad Street, where his brother was a hair dresser. Mitchell's boss, Danny Townsend, was there.

"He came looking for him and seeing that he wasn't here and proceeded to go to the house," Townsend said.

In that intervening time, though, authorities had come to the home and told the family that Mitchell died in the crash.

"I just, I was shocked. I couldn't believe it," Stephen Baptiste said.

Now, the family is left to plan their second funeral in a week. Mitchell's work station remains just the way he left it on Friday morning.

"Mitch was a great guy. Real pleasant, easy to get along with. You know, a real nice person, real nice personality," Townsend said. "It's hard to believe. It's really heartwrenching."

It is a pain the Baptiste family said they are dealing with through their faith-- even as the driver responsible for the crash remains at large.

"My mother always taught us that, regardless of what you did, you still have to own it-- and that person still is going to have to own it. He may get away with it; he may not. But that's still something he has to live with, that person has to live with. And they're going to have a lot of sleepless nights, just like we did," Stephen Baptiste said. "We would just like closure to know exactly what happened and, you know,  that would give us a great rest right there."

New Orleans Police said they are looking for a Black Nissan-- either an Altima or a Maxima-- with dark tinted windows and a Fleur-de-Lis on the rear window. That vehicle also sustained damage to the front left side and a headlight is missing. If you have any information on this case, call Crimestoppers at 822-1111.

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