NEW ORLEANS — Vondra Mack said she and her husband, Joseph Sampson, weren't even supposed to be at Saturday evening's Krewe of Endymion parade. But plans for a party fell through, and they went to the krewe's route near the corner of Canal and South Galvez streets in Mid-City.
What was supposed to be another joyous evening for Sampson and Mack's friends and loved ones ended in tragedy when Sampson was hit by a float and killed, leaving his family reeling in grief for the doting father and grandfather.
"I just really can't believe it happened," Vondra Mack said Sunday morning. "I never did think it would happen."
According to Sampson's daughter-in-law, Latasha Green, their family has been trying to process a flurry of conflicting accounts about how he ended up under a passing float.
One they keep hearing is that Sampson, 58, was inadvertently pushed as the surrounding crowd jostled for throws. Green said they have also heard that Sampson may have simply slipped while reaching out for beads.
"It is something we all know can happen either way (at) Mardi Gras when adults are running up for beads," Green said. "We don't feel it was done on purpose. It was just ... an unfortunate incident."
Green and Sampson's sister-in-law, Christell Mack, said what was most important now was supporting Vondra Mack, who suddenly and unexpectedly lost the man with whom she had spent nearly four decades.
"You see one, you see the other," Christell Mack said.
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Sampson's three children and two grandchildren are also deep in mourning, a devastating process which is only in its earliest phases, Green said.
Green said going to Carnival parades with his tight-knit social and family circle was one of Sampson's favorite activities. He also regularly participated in the 9 Times Social Aid & Pleasure Club second line through neighborhoods in the Upper 9th Ward, having done so as recently as last year.
Sampson's nephew, Renell Davis, added that his uncle never lost faith in the New Orleans Saints, his favorite football team.
"Everything was about family time," Green said. "He loved his wife. He adored his kids. He enjoyed having a good time.
"He was a loving, hard-working man. We'll miss him."
New Orleans public safety authorities hadn't officially released Sampson’s identity on Sunday morning.
The city has also said little about how Saturday's deadly accident occurred.
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Joseph Sampson remembered
They have only said a man died after falling in an opening between sections of Float No. 14, a tandem float in three sections. The rest of the parade was canceled, with police escorting trailing floats to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the site of Endymion's annual post-parade bash.
Though people dying from being hit by a parade float are relatively rare, the float — called “Captain S.S. Eddie” and named for krewe founder Ed Muniz — was the same one that struck and killed Endymion rider Jody Compretta, 39, in 2008.
Meanwhile, at Wednesday night’s Krewe of Nyx parade, 58-year-old Geraldine Carmouche was also struck and killed by a tandem float.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Saturday night that tandem floats will not be allowed to roll during the final three days of the city’s Mardi Gras celebrations.
Krewes which regularly feature tandem floats, such as Bacchus, Thoth and Orpehus, said late Saturday they would comply with the restriction announced by Cantrell.
They also expressed condolences for the families of Carmouche and Sampson.
On Sunday, Sampson’s family said they would like to see the city implement safety improvements for parades, such as barricades along the entire route.