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Child killed by impaired driver remembered

LA Spirit is dedicating the current cheerleading season to Abby Douglas and team members are looking for ways to remember her during upcoming competitions.

NEW ORLEANS — State Police have located a suspected impaired driver accused of killing a Metairie girl in a crash on the Westbank. 

Wendell Lachney’s arrest on a vehicular homicide charge is pending.  

The crash happened Friday night on Belle Chasse Highway near Gretna. 

Meanwhile, family, friends, and classmates of nine-year-old Abby Douglas are heartbroken. 

She attended St. Ann School in Metairie. 

Her principal Lindsay Guidry in a statement said, “It is with great sadness that we, at St. Ann School, mourn the loss of our student, Abigail Douglas.  Abby was a shining light and will be remembered fondly…To help our students process and cope with the loss of their classmate, we have dedicated spaces in our school to provide art activities and counseling support.”    

Douglas spent a lot of time at LA Spirit in Elmwood, training with her two competitive cheerleading teams.  

Her coaches Danielle Ferrell and Eli Cole say she lit up the gym with her infectious smile and big heart.  

“She was always talking to people, always hugging people, always being nice to everyone, everyone she met,” Ferrell said. “She never knew a stranger.”  

“Abby was the sweetest kid that you ever met,” Cole said. “Just a kind soul. Nice to everybody. She was very loud and spirited.” 

Douglas died on Sunday at University Medical Center. 

“Our kids are taking it very hard, just because she was such an important part, personally for our team,” Ferrell said. “She was the one that got them all together. She was the leader.” 

Sunny House from Mother Against Drunk Driving says Lachney should be held accountable for what she called a serious violent crime.  

“This young girl wasn’t even finished growing, had just begun her life and this is something that is breaking hearts everywhere,” House said.   

House added, impaired driving is 100 percent preventable.  

“You can look at Uber, rideshare, hailing a taxi, public transportation, make a plan, designate a driver. This is happening, this problem is still happening way too often.” 

LA Spirit is dedicating the current cheerleading season to Abby Douglas and team members are looking for ways to remember her during upcoming competitions.  

“One of the teams is having little shoe tags made so that we can carry a piece of her when they take the floor,” Cole said. “One of the teams talked about doing a team teddy bear that they can take with them to every competition.” 

La spirit has also started a Meal Train and created a Go Fund Me account for Douglas’s family. Click here to visit the Go Fund Me The Douglas Family, organized by Andrea Garcia

Here is St. Ann Principal Lindsay Guidry’s full statement: 

“It is with great sadness that we, at St. Ann School, mourn the loss of our student, Abigail Douglas.  Abby was a shining light and will be remembered fondly.  

To support our students as well as our faculty and staff, counselors from around the Archdiocese, including our school counselor, have been available to provide support during this time. To help our students process and cope with the loss of their classmate, we have dedicated spaces in our school to provide art activities and counseling support.  In addition, our students participated in a small prayer service in our rosary garden led by our pastor, Fr. Billy O’Riordan.   

The St. Ann Home and School Club began praying a continuous rosary led by parents on the St. Ann Parents Facebook page that will continue through until Abby's funeral.  St. Ann School parents also began collecting funds to help ease some of the financial burdens the family is unexpectedly facing.  

Our superintendent, Dr. RaeNell Houston, pastor, administrative team, teachers, and many students gathered to witness the donor flag at UMC, as it was raised to honor Abby and the many lives she will save as an organ donor.  We continue to pray for the Douglas family, the medical teams, and those who will be blessed as recipients.  

We continue to look to our faith and ask St. Ann to intercede and guide our school community during this time of sorrow.”