Democrat mayor of a small Louisiana town who was running for reelection died in a car crash on Election Day hours before polls closed, according to KLFY-TV.
Louisiana State Police report that Melville Mayor Velma D. Hendrix, 84, died in a crash on U.S. 190 near Port Barre, in St. Landry Parish.
A collision between two vehicles occurred just before 2 p.m., according to the authorities.
Melville, known as the “Catfish Capital of the World,” elected Hendrix for the first time in 2018 with 70% of the vote. In Tuesday’s reelection campaign, she was facing off against Democrats Sheila “Sam” Londerno and Caretta Robertson.
Hendrix previously served on Melville’s board of aldermen between the 1990s and early 2000s, just prior to being elected mayor.
Several reports indicate that a 2008 Acura RDX collided with a 2015 Ram 2500 pickup truck driven by Columbia, Louisiana resident Michael Cook.
Cook was traveling south on LA 741 and the Acura was traveling west on U.S. 190. Authorities report that Cook failed to yield as he crossed over both lanes of westbound traffic.
Due to this, Cook’s vehicle struck an Acura, where Hendrix was sitting in the back passenger seat. It was reported that Hendrix was not wearing a seatbelt at the time.
All four passengers in the Acura sustained moderate to critical injuries and were taken to local hospitals. As a result of the crash, Hendrix died, according to the coroner’s office in St. Landry Parish.
It was noted that Cook was not injured even though he was not wearing a seatbelt. The police stated that he showed no signs of impairment, but he was cited for failure to yield at a stop sign.
Investigations remain ongoing into the crash.
“Speaking to the people in that area, they’re just shocked,” said St. Landry Parish President Jessie Bellard. “It’s tragic. The community is a small community, and they’re mourning the loss of their mayor.”
With 100% of results reported, Londerno is expected to have won with 43% of votes. The incumbent Mayor Hendrix received approximately 17% of the vote.
According to St. Landry Parish Clerk of Court Charles Jagneaux, qualifying for candidates will be reopened since Hendrix passed away before polls closed. Jagneaux explained that a new mayoral election would be held in December if more candidates qualify by Monday. In the absence of a new candidate, Londerno is expected to be proclaimed mayor of Melville.