[Ascension Parish] – Approximately 2,500 pink, purple and blue balloons filled the sky Sunday at St. Amant Middle School when about 400 members of Ascension Parish community gathered to remember the lives of two local girls who drowned Feb. 21 after their mother’s vehicle crashed into Black Bayou.
Patience Lobell, 7, and Faith Castilaw, 9, lost their lives after their mother, Raelynn Encalade, 28, went off Stringer Bridge Road in St. Amant. Brandi Brignac and Christina Duhe, two mothers whose daughters attended school with the girls organized the memorial service.
Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez spoke along with St. Amant Volunteer Fire Chief James E. LeBlanc, St. Amant Primary School Principal Christie H. Crooks and Chaplain Ken Spivey. Ascension Parish Sheriff Lt. David Martin and all the respondents were also present for the services including Toby Ragas, a good samaritan who lived next to where the crash happened and saved two other children who were also in the car.
“This community wraps their arms around each of the family members of Faith and Patience,” said LeBlanc. “This is my 26th year as a fire chief in Ascension Parish and I have seen a lot of death, but for some reason, this has touched me and gotten to me the most”, he said.
The night of the crash, a bank account was opened for donations for the family and $6,200 was raised. Other members of the community organized a music benefit at a local bar that also gave a percentage of the profits to the family, but the amount was not disclosed.
Other fatal incidents at the exact site of the Feb. 21 crash have occurred. A petition was started by Jenny Pardue when her son almost died when his tire blew out on Stringer Bridge Road. In 2008, Jody Bourgeois, 19, died when he and his vehicle were found submerged in Black Bayou. After the Feb. 21 crash, more than 3,500 signatures were added and presented to the Department of Transportation Development (DOTD).
Parish President Tommy Martinez said, “On behalf of myself, I would like to mention that I have already signed the petition to put the guard rails up, and if DOTD refuses to put them up, I believe we have some guard rails we can spare to put them up ourselves.”
According to the Ascension Parish Government, a council meeting will be held Mar. 15, 2012 to further discuss the guard rails to which Martinez personally invited the family members of the two girls.
Jason Moran, a volunteer fire fighter for St. Amant Fire Department was on scene at the crash. “It has been a little more than a week, and I keep reliving that night like it was yesterday. I travel that road [Stringer Bridge Rd.] every day and it does not seem real”, Moran said.
Encalade and her family members attended the service and at the end hugged and handed each of the 22 respondents a rose with a pink or purple ribbon tied around it. The final speaker before Chaplain led a closing prayer was the girl’s principal, Christie Crooks, who said that this summer, the school will be adding an outdoor classroom in honor of Patience and Faith, where lime and lemon trees will be planted in their memory.