Drunk driver who ran over construction worker on Hale Boggs Bridge gets 30 years | Courts

The driver who crashed at a construction site on the Hale Boggs Bridge, throwing a worker over the railing to his death, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison and another 12 years on probation.

Hunter Johnson, 23, was intoxicated when he drove his pickup truck through the construction zone on the bridge between Destrehan and Luling in the early morning hours of January 14, 2021, knocking over Baton Rouge’s Brady Ortego on the side and into the Mississippi River, Louisiana State Police said.

Hunter Mason Johnson.

Johnson pleaded guilty Feb. 9 to driving homicide and obstruction of justice.

On Wednesday, 29th Judicial District Court Judge Timothy Marcel handed down the 30-year sentence after hearing statements from several relatives of Ortego, 44. Despite a lengthy search of the river, Ortego’s body was never found.

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After hitting Ortega, Johnson abandoned his truck and fled the scene, state police said. His grandmother, Marie Sally Dufrene, 73, picked him up and took him home. From there, Johnson’s mother, Pebbles Johnson, drove him to a hotel in Houma to hide from the police.

For weeks, state police analyzed DNA and other evidence to identify the fleeing driver.

Police arrested Johnson in March 2021. His mother and grandmother were arrested that summer and convicted of obstruction of justice.

“Nothing can bring Brady Ortego back,” Marcel said, “but hopefully this sentencing can give his family the closure and justice they deserve.”

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Alice F. Ponder