Friday, November 5, 2010

Student’s death raises safety concerns

Student’s death raises safety concerns

Student’s death raises safety concerns

Published: Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 11:42 a.m.

THIBODAUX — When Nathan Trepagnier and his fraternity mates took a hayride down Audubon Avenue Saturday, they were participating in a homecoming activity, approved by Nicholls State University officials, that was supposed to be safe.

But in the wake of the 19-year-old Metairie native’s death, trailer manufacturers and law-enforcement officials have raised concerns about the safety of people riding on trailers meant to haul equipment.

Trepagnier was run over and killed after falling from a hayride traveling on Audubon Avenue Saturday afternoon, State Police said. Trepagnier, who had been sitting on bale of hay, was trying to reposition himself when he fell, authorities said. Toxicology results on Trepagnier are pending.

Trepagnier’s fraternity, Kappa Alpha Order, had to register with the university to participate in the homecoming parade, university spokesman Graham Harvey said. University officials met Sept. 15 to review and assess campus activities, including safety measures.

Trepagnier’s death was the first of its kind during homecoming festivities, Harvey said. The university plans to review the State Police report on the student’s death before taking “all necessary measures,” the spokesman added.

The practice of using trailers in parades, whether Mardi Gras or homecoming, is not uncommon in south Louisiana, nor is it uncommon to see them used in hayrides around Halloween.

While these trailers are generally a part of slow-moving processions, that does not mean there is not some danger involved, authorities said.

“Any time you’re in any type of moving vehicle and not fastened in the vehicle, you’re at a risk,” State Police Sgt. Markus Smith said. Hayrides are particularly dangerous because they don’t have proper seating or restraints, he added.

The trailer Trepagnier was riding had a 1- to 2-foot-high railing, said Master Trooper Bryan Zeringue of State Police Troop C in Gray.

There were 22 people sitting in the truck and the trailer, he added, noting he did believe the trailer, itself, was overcrowded with people.

“They’re not moving fast, but you don’t have to be moving fast for anything to happen,” Zeringue said, adding the railings must be secure and high enough for people to fall, if trailers are going to be used to carry people in parades.

Without proper modifications, “trailers are not meant for people” and are meant for property carrying purposes, said Clint Lancaster, the technical director for the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers.

On Sunday, Trepagnier’s father, Wilfred Trepagnier Jr., said there was no one to blame for his son’s death because it was a “freak accident.” He repeated that belief during a phone interview Wednesday.

As a member of the Krewe of Bacchus in New Orleans, Trepagnier’s father said he is no stranger to riding on floats. The parade’s members must wear a harness to ride, he said.

Asked if he could think of any similar precautions for a hayride, Trepagner’s father replied that he could not and added his son had been sitting down, which was a seemingly safe position.

“He just moved a little bit to get comfortable on the bale he was sitting on,” Trepagnier’s father said.

Attempts to contact Kappa Alpha Order adviser Mike Matherne, who was out of town, were unsuccessful.

Trepagnier’s Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, 3368 Esplanade Ave., New Orleans.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Nathan Scott Trepagnier Scholarship Fund at Holy Rosary Academy and High School, 3368 Esplanade Ave., New Orleans, La. 70119.

Staff Writer Raymond Legendre can be reached at 448-7617 or Follow him on Twitter @cometcrime.

No comments: