Mar 22, 2010 6:12 PM by Kate Mundy
A Melville man drives straight into the Atchafalaya River. His vehicle and body were retrieved Wednesday afternoon.
Billy Duplechain, 24, loved life. "He was a ham, he always wanted to be famous, be either a wrestler or somebody special. He always wanted attention, but this was a bad way to get it," said his mother Vickie Duplechain.
Wednesday, he was the focus of a full fledged recovery mission. The St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office had the help of the East Baton Rouge Parish Maritime Response team and Lafayette based C&C Technologies and its sonar equipment. The crews located Duplechain's 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee after 1:00 Wednesday afternoon.
"When the divers went down, they confirmed that the body was in the vehicle," said St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz. The sheriff said it was fortunate that Duplechain's body remained behind the wheel. Due to the swift current in the river, recovering a body without a vehicle would've been tough.
Family members knew Duplechain didn't survive. His 18-year old sister Raven had spent the day with him, but witnessed him driving erratically Tuesday night. "We was behind him and he almost hit a vehicle. As soon as we seen him almost wreck, we went to my mom and he, it's like he went straight into the river," said Raven Duplechain.
Vickie Duplechain said her son hadn't been the same since suffering a heat stroke offshore 2 1/2 years ago. He was unable to work outside. His family says he was able to find an office job in Lafayette at Transcom and was really excited about his life. He was going to be off of work Wednesday and planned to put a new spoiler on his SUV.
Tuesday night, witnesses say something was definitely wrong. "When they seen him, he was shaking his arms on the steering wheel and he was slumped over they're thinking maybe heart attack or seizure." said Vickie Duplechain.
The vehicle hit the water as Melville Ferry was pulling in. The SUV wedged itself underneath part of the ferry, 30 feet deep into the Atchafalaya. It took heavy machinery and a long cable to finally get Duplechain and his vehicle to shore, just before 3:00 Wednesday afternoon.