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Mayor running for re-election in Louisiana killed in car crash on Election Day, authorities say

Melville Mayor Velma D. Hendrix, 84, was a passenger in a car that was struck by a pickup on the highway, state police said.

The mayor of a small Louisiana town who was running for re-election was killed in a car crash on Election Day, authorities said.

Velma D. Hendrix, 84, a passenger, was not wearing a seat belt when a pickup truck struck the car she was in on a highway about 11 a.m. Tuesday, Louisiana State Police said in a statement. She was pronounced dead at a hospital, police said.

Hendrix was the mayor of Melville. She was running for re-election, according to the St. Landry Parish clerk.

In a message on the town’s website, Hendrix says it is a community where people raise families, work hard and have fun. A town sign boasts it is the “Catfish Capital of Louisiana.” Melville is about 130 miles northwest of New Orleans.

The crash occurred on U.S. Highway 190 near Louisiana Highway 741, police said.

Michael Cook, of Columbia, Louisiana, was driving a 2015 Ram pickup headed southbound on Highway 741 as a 2008 Acura RDX was headed westbound on Highway 190, police said. When the driver of an Acura approached an intersection, Cook failed to yield crossing both westbound lanes of highway 190, police said.

The front of the pickup struck the passenger said of the Acura, police said.

Hendrix was in a rear passenger seat, police said.

The driver of the Acura was wearing a seat belt. Three other passengers in the car were moderately to critically injured. It was unknown, police said, whether they were wearing seat belts.

Cook, the driver of the pickup, was not wearing a seat belt, police said, and was not injured.

He submitted to an alcohol test, which determined he had no alcohol in his system, police said.

He was cited for failure to yield to a stop sign and for not wearing a seat belt. A routine toxicology sample from the driver of the Acura has been submitted to the State Police Crime Lab for analysis. This crash remains under investigation, police said.

The St. Landry Parish clerk offered prayers and condolences to Hendrix’s family and friends in a statement on Facebook.

Qualifying for the open mayor’s seat in Melville runs until Monday, and the election will be held Dec. 10, according to the statement.

“In the case of no one else qualifying before Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, the candidates from Nov. 8, 2022 with the highest votes will be declared Mayor of Melville,” the statement said.

Hendrix was running third in her bid for re-election Tuesday, with 116 votes, the clerk’s office said. Sheila Londerno had 182 votes, and Caretta Robertson had 171 votes, the clerk said. 

Melville has about 1,000 residents.