Crash victim dies on 89th birthday

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 2:00am

An elderly woman died Monday after her car went off the road near the Mall of Louisiana and ended up in a creek.

The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office says Vivian Augustin, 89, drove her silver Toyota Rav4 off Frontage Road just after 1:30 p.m., down an embankment, and into Ward's Creek.

One person witnessed the crash.

"We had a deputy that was getting off duty," said Casey Rayborn Hicks of the Sheriff's office. "He was driving in a marked unit, and the eyewitness flagged him down on the interstate."

Deputies saw broken glass near the side of the creek where the witness said the crash took place. That led them to believe the car's windows had shattered, water rushed in, and it sank to the bottom, as far as 30 feet down.

"Without someone coming out of the vehicle relatively quickly and soon," Hicks said, "we kind of knew that this was a recovery mission, unfortunately."

Dozens of members of the sheriff's office, along with the St. George Fire Department and East Baton Rouge EMS, searched for the car by foot and by boat, but were hampered by the conditions. They could not use sonar because of the creek's dimensions, and the pike poles they had did not always reach the floor. A helicopter was brought in, but it could not see below the surface.

"Divers were finally able to locate the vehicle hours later," Hicks said. "That's when we were able to put a chain around the vehicle and actually pull it out, and that's when we found the female driver inside the vehicle."

Dozens of onlookers stayed close by, both to see what was happening and to show support for a family that lost a loved one.

"I know if that was one of my family members or myself, I would've really appreciated someone being there and seeing what happened or offering assistance," said Alexandra Moore.

"It's still someone's grandmother, someone's mother, someone's sister," agreed Katina Hawkins. "And we just feel obligated, you know, as a community of Baton Rouge to let people know that there are people out here that care."

But until the car was brought to the side of the creek, the crews on site had to fear the worst.

"Everyone was sort of holding their breath," Hicks explained. "And one (victim) was bad enough, but then, checking the vehicle to make sure that there was no one else inside." 

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