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84-year-old Louisiana mayor running for reelection killed in car crash on Election Day

At 84 years old, Velma Hendrix devoted her time to being the mayor of a small town in Louisiana. It was a job she loved so much that this year, she ran for reelection. Then on Election Day, that campaign came to an abrupt halt.

Just hours after the polls opened in Hendrix's town of Melville, she was killed in a car accident. 

Louisiana State Police said that on Nov. 8, Hendrix was riding in the backseat of a car with four other people in it when the car was hit by a pickup truck that failed to yield at an intersection. Police said that Hendrix was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. She was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, but police said she "ultimately succumbed to her injuries." 

The other passengers in the car suffered moderate to critical injuries, while the driver of the pickup was not injured. Police said the driver, identified as Michael Cook, did not have alcohol in his system and had "no signs of impairment." The crash remains under investigation. 

Melville, known as the "Catfish Capital of Louisiana," is a small town of roughly 1,000 people located in the southern parish of St. Landry. The clerk of the parish said on Facebook that with Hendrix's "untimely passing," a qualifying period will be reopened through Monday. If nobody other than the current candidates qualify before that time, the candidate who got the highest number of votes on Election Day will be named the town's next mayor. If someone else puts their hat in the ring, however, a new election will be held on Dec. 10. 

In regards to Mayor Velma D. Hendrix, Mayor of Melville's untimely passing, the Louisiana Comissioner of Elections,...

Posted by St. Landry Parish Clerk on Tuesday, November 8, 2022

If no other candidates qualify, Tuesday's election results indicate that Sheila "Sam" Londerno will be the town's next mayor. According to state results, she got 52% of the votes, compared with Caretta Robertson, who got 48%. Like Hendrix, both candidates are Democrats. Election results on the state website do not indicate how many votes were cast in Hendrix's favor and it is unclear if she would have won.

Jayme Johnson, a member of the town's board of aldermen, said on Facebook that "life has continued to show me that you can be gone in the blink of an eye." 

"Melville lost a wonderful soul yesterday," she wrote on Wednesday, along with photos of her and Hendrix as well as others. 

Hendrix had been the town's mayor since 2018. Until her death, she appeared to play an active role in community events, with photos showing her at an event at the end of October offering assistance with food stamps, Medicaid and other government assistance. 

"Melville is a place where people raise families, work hard, and know how to have fun," a note from Hendrix says on the town's website. "... I've always been proud of our town, and I'm especially proud to serve as the Mayor of such a wonderful place." 

CBS News has reached out to town officials for comment. 

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