HAUGHTON, LA (KSLA) - Saturday marks one year since a fatal cross-over accident on I-20 near Haughton killed two teens and injured two others who are still recovering. With the anniversary comes a major milestone in efforts to help keep similar wrecks from happening again.
Kelly Hatfield's daughter, Megan, was a passenger in a car that left the roadway on July 6, 2012, crossed the grassy median, spun out of control and struck a car and a tractor-trailer in the oncoming lanes.
"Today would have been the last day last year that I would have seen her," says Hatfield. "Especially today, I'm reliving everything, just trying to recapture her face, things she might have said."
Megan died and her friend, Arien was also killed. A young man named Justin somehow made it through with only a broken leg. But Johnathon Bartley's road to recovery will be a long one. He is undergoing intensive physical therapy, and is just now beginning to take steps and speak.
Since that accident, KSLA News 12 has asked the state about why cable barriers are not as prevalent in north Louisiana as they are in southern part of the state and in Texas. In the past decade, Texas has installed 1,000 miles of concrete and cable barriers to prevent crossover accidents. Louisiana has 80 miles worth, but all of it down near Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
This is in spite of the fact that hundreds of miles of interstate and state highways in Louisiana qualify for median cable barriers. When the median is only 60 to 65 feet across, the recommendation is that some sort of barrier should be put in place. The distance between the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-20 where the accident involving Megan, Arien, Justin and Johnathon is 57 feet.
Our series of reports have helped lead to major changes, including the announcement of a $5 million project to install 71 miles of cable barrier along I-20 from the Texas state line all the way to Bienville Parish.
On July 10, the Department of Transportation will begin taking bids on the project.
"Actually, that's the day we buried Megan," says Kelly Hatfield. "So I kind of find it as a sign, maybe?"
Construction of the cable barriers is expected to begin by late summer or early fall. The LA DOTD says they'll spend the next five years putting up median barriers along the interstate before turning their attention to placing them along state highways and other areas in need.