LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

JEFFERSON, La. -- Jefferson Parish authorities say that the body of 19-year-old Miguel Rodriguez, the driver who plunged his truck into Lake Pontchartrain Monday afternoon, has been found.

Search crews located his truck overnight and found his body around 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Causeway officials say Rodriguez veered across lanes of traffic several times, hitting both guard rails before flipping the truck into the lake.

'The truck was southbound, about two miles from the south shore,' said Causeway GM Carlton Dufrechou. 'It was in the right lane. It drifted slowly to the left lane, impacted the left guard rail, then veered to the right hit the right guard rail and almost immediately took a hard left, almost a 90 degree left, departed, went over the rail.'

Friends and family gathered at the Bonnabel Boat Launch where the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Marine Division brought the body of Rodriguez.

'Last night, I went all on the rocks looking for him with my flashlight, by myself,' said Mali Moran, a close friend of the victim. 'I was screaming his name. I couldn't find him. I saw the helicopter and the boat.'

Moran said she was blessed to have the recent Grace King High School graduate in her life.

'He was amazing, a great guy. I just can't believe this has happened. This has been too much. This has been a shock to me.'

Accidents like this, where people end up in the water have become all too familiar on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.

'We've had 10 overboards in the last 20 years, but the thing that concerns me, we've had three this year,' said Dufrechou.

In addition to Monday's accident, in February, a large dump truck burst into flames and went over the edge, killing the driver.

In May, a four-car accident sent one vehicle overboard. That driver was rescued.

All of the accidents happened on the older southbound bridge where the guard rails are about 6 inches lower than the northbound span.

'We're trying to do everything we can to figure out a way to affordably improve the rails on the bridge,' said Dufrechou. 'Both rails met their original design specifications of 1956 and 1969.'

Dufrechou said installing new guard rails called a 'Jersey Barrier' would cost about $28 million.

'That's the best estimate we have right now. We're trying to figure out ways to make it more affordable and frankly, to get them out there quicker. The conventional construction would take way too long. It would back up traffic for miles and miles.'

The Causeway Commission has also considered lowering the speed limit on the bridge as a last resort.

As bridge managers search for a solution, Moran is now coming to grips with the loss of her good friend, Rodriguez.

'God has blessed this earth because he did a lot for people,' said Moran. 'If he saw someone struggling, he helped them.'

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://www.wwltv.com/story/news/2014/09/04/14610516/