A young woman parked on Prayer House Road in Opelousas died Tuesday afternoon when a large pecan tree fell onto her vehicle.
Gabrielle LaJack, 17, had driven from cheerleading practice and was pulling into the driveway of her parents’ house when the tree fell.
Her father, Sonny LaJack, said that if she had been five seconds earlier or later, the tree might have missed her.
His daughter was to begin her senior year at Opelousas Catholic School this fall.
The incident happened during Tuesday’s thunderstorms in St. Landry Parish.
LaJack’s parents, grandfather and godmother gathered at the house.
Godmother Kathy Whipp described the teen everyone called “Gabby” as “joy personified.”
Gabby LaJack, she said, was “kind-hearted, everyone’s friend and the baby of the family.”
The teen had two older sisters and an older brother.
Opelousas police and St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputies responded to a call at 2:17 p.m. Tuesday. A search-and-rescue team arrived at the scene, where a parish coroner declared LaJack dead.
All of the LaJack children had enrolled at Opelousas Catholic School in pre-kindergarten, said former principal Perry Fontenot, who retired last month.
He added that the children’s father had asked Fontenot to wait until next year to retire so his youngest daughter could have had him as principal her senior year.
“Gabby was a wonderful, wonderful young lady,” Fontenot said Tuesday. “She was very quiet and quite spiritual, strong in her faith.”
The teen had planned to participate in the school’s ministry team this coming school year, conducting retreats for students in the fifth through tenth grade. “She would have been a wonderful part of that team,” Fontenot said.
Although the school year is over, Gabrielle LaJack had gone to practice because the cheerleading team is headed to a camp next week.
“For something like this to happen in her driveway,” Fontenot said, shaken, “it’s just a terrible thing.”
LaFond-Ardoin Funeral Home of Opelousas is in charge of arrangements.