Louisiana Village Stranded, With Bridge Out

     NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The 1,300 residents of Barataria, a fishing village 50 miles west of New Orleans, say they have been trapped on their island since a contractor’s barge took their bridge out on May 31.

     Lead plaintiff Carol Steele filed the federal class action against Bertucci Contracting Co. She says the company’s vessel the M/V Julie Marie and at least one barge in tow ran into the Leo Kerner Bridge, between Barataria and Lafitte.
     “As a result of the allusion described above, the Leo Kerner Bridge, a ‘swing-type’ bridge, was rendered inoperable,” according to the complaint.
     “The Leo Kerner Bridge is part of the only egress into and out of the community of Barataria, La.”
     The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has set up a pedestrian-only emergency ferry service between Barataria and Lafitte, but “no vehicular traffic is permitted on the ferry.
     “Plaintiff Carol Steele is a part-time resident of the community of Barataria, La., and has been unable to return to her home following surgery on May 31, 2011 because of the closure of the Leo Kerner Bridge,” she says.
     “On information and belief, there are many other similarly situated persons who have been damaged by the closing of the Leo Kerner Bridge, and who would benefit from a court-supervised notice of the present lawsuit, and the opportunity to join it.”
     Steels says Julie Marie kept towing the barge despite “constructive knowledge that it was unsafe to proceed because the nature of the tow was such that it impeded visibility to the pilot.”
     Steele seeks class damages for loss of income, loss of use of property, damages and other claims, “in such sums as may be deemed reasonable under the circumstances, together with judicial interest thereon from the date of judicial demand until paid, for all costs of these proceedings, and for all other general and equitable relief as may be appropriate.”
     She is represented by Ronna Steele of Gretna.

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