NC man dies after tractor trailer goes off CBBT

13News Now Steven Graves has the story

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- A North Carolina truck driver died after his tractor trailer went over the side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel on Thursday.

Tom Anderson, the Deputy Director of Operations for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel District, told 13News Now the incident happened in the southbound lanes of the Eastern Shore side of the bridge-tunnel around 12:30 p.m. at mile marker 15.

The driver, identified as 47-year-old Joseph Chen from Greenville, NC, was spotted on top of the vehicle's cab at 12:35 p.m. and was recovered by a Navy helicopter from Squadron HSC-2. Chen died while en route to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

A Go FundMe account has been set up for Chen's family. 

Anderson says Chen was hauling seafood for Evans Transport in Washington, NC at the time of the accident.

Officials believe the cab of the truck detached from the trailer. Dive teams are set to look for the cab on Friday afternoon.  It is believed that the trailer of the truck drifted away from the bridge and sank. Crews might not be able to recover it. 

At the time of the accident, Anderson said the bridge-tunnel was under travel restrictions due to high winds. According to the facility's website, restrictions become active when winds reach 40 mph.

Those same heavy winds prevented Accomack County Public Schools students from returning from an event in Williamsburg on Thursday because buses were not allowed to cross over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

The southbound lanes of the bridge-tunnel have since reopened to traffic, except in the area where the truck went off, where traffic is down to one lane.

That one lane is expected to remain closed while guard rail repairs are made, which is expected to go on for about a week.

The four-lane, 20 mile-long crossing is the only direct route from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to the south Hampton Roads area. It includes two underwater mile-long tunnels. 

A dozen vehicles have gone over the side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel since 1964. Only one person survived any of those accidents.

That was the driver of a tractor trailer in January of 2016, who plunged his truck into the chilly water while trying to pass a slower vehicle.

33-year-old Matthew Killmon of Wachapreague survived following 40 minutes in the frigid water, with just hypothermia and a broken arm.

The Associated Press and Delmarva Now contributed to this report.

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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