Nurse recalls working 19 hours straight after I-55 crash: “It looked like a war zone”

At least 158 vehicles were involved in the chain-reaction pileup on I-55 between Ponchatoula and LaPlace as a “super fog” blanketed south Louisiana Monday morning.

As of Friday, State Police now say seven people were confirmed to have died in the crash.

“Due to the intense fire and the extensive wreckage, the initial investigation led troopers to believe that there were a total of eight victims,” said State Police in a release. In collaboration with several agencies and the FACES Lab, State Police said, “It has been conclusively determined that there are no additional or unknown victims of this tragic incident other than seven identified victims.”

One nurse practitioner spoke to Unfiltered with Kiran and recalled the day.

“The first call came in for a motor vehicle accident,” she recalled. “Right after 9 a.m., we first got a call with only two people involved, and after 20 minutes, we got a dozen. We went on diversion at one point because we had no more room. The total count at our hospital last we counted was 41. We had injuries that varied from minor whiplash and burns all the way up to second and third-degree burns. We also had large bone fractures and head injuries. It looked like a warzone. I worked 19 hours, went home for eight hours, and went back for 14 hours.”

At least 63 people were injured and transported to area hospitals with varying degrees of injuries from critical to minor. Many victims sought medical assistance on their own.

Multiple areas of the bridge needed to be cleaned. The southbound lanes between Ponchatoula & Laplace re-opened Thursday morning. The Department of Transportation & Development said the interstate will now be reduced to one lane near the crash site. The northbound lanes remain closed at this time.

The nurse practitioner, who asked for their name and hospital name to remain anonymous, said people who left the hospital on Monday returned because they suffered more severe injuries than anticipated.

She said the fog and the marsh fires were a recipe for tragedy.

“Another nurse and I carpool together,” she said. “We had gotten up that morning and noticed the fog, which was 40 miles away from the accident. The fog was pretty bad, and we looked at each other and had a bad feeling. The fog was weird, like nothing I’d seen before. It was like a forest fire. It was so dense. This fog wasn’t just located there. The marsh fires made it so much worse.”

The nurse of 16 years said she lost one patient and has a few patients in critical condition. She said the hospital was obviously busier than normal on Monday with the normal flow of patients and the people involved in the accident.

“The first hour was chaos,” she said. “Having normal flow, plus this with how many people were involved, was insane. We were a well-oiled machine. Our team is amazing. Everybody has their job and knows how to do it. The communication we have is paramount. When we get a critical patient in, you must work from top to bottom. The level of organization and communication has to be top-notch in situations like this. It’s great when you have that type of teamwork.”

“Everyone has to look for someone to blame,” she added. “What matters is that everyone who needed to come together did come together. At the end of the day, the community came together and helped. Our prayers go out to everyone involved.”

Drivers are urged to use extra caution this weekend after the National Weather Service said another round of super fog is expected Halloween weekend Friday overnight into the early morning on Saturday.

Download the Unfiltered with Kiran app from the Apple App Store and Google Play to stay updated on any new developments.

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