SLIDELL -- The driver of an 18-wheeler that plunged into the Pearl River following a multi-vehicle collision late Tuesday night was found dead by divers about 8 a.m. Wednesday, officials said.
The Louisiana State Police identified the driver as Steven Shawn Clark, 26, of Theodore, Ala.
The wreck occurred about 10 p.m. on Interstate 10 westbound on the middle Pearl River bridge, just west of the Mississippi-Louisiana border.
Louisiana Trooper Dustin Dwight said the incident is being classified as a fatal hit-and-run, involving a second 18-wheeler driven by Andrew Chapple of San Antonio, Texas, and a dark-colored pickup that fled the scene, heading west toward Slidell.
It appears both 18-wheelers were westbound travelling side-by-side when the pickup attempted to pass Chapple's truck by using the right shoulder. The pickup struck the front-passenger side of Chapple's truck, causing it to veer into the left lane and force Clark's 18-wheeler to break through the left lane guard rail and fall into the river, Dwight said.
Rescue divers from St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office found Clark dead in the cab of his 18-wheeler.
"He was pronounced dead on the scene," LSP Sgt. Donald Pierce said.
The westbound and eastbound lanes of I-10 were closed for several hours as divers were in the water and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development officials tried unsuccessfully to remove the big-rig from the river.
Chapple's 18-wheeler was not in the water and was towed away from the scene. He was not injured in the wreck.
About 130 feet of the bridge's guardrails were destroyed as the 18-wheeler drove off the bridge.
DOTD officials began repairing the guardrails later Wednesday, leaving westbound traffic slightly congested for part of the day.
Troopers are seeking information on the dark colored pickup involved in the crash. Anyone with information as to the driver of this vehicle or his whereabouts is encouraged to contact LSP Troop L at (985) 893-6250. The crash remains under investigation.