A 47-year-old man, Joseph Chen, of Greenville, North Carolina, tragically died after being rescued when the tractor-trailer he was driving went over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
According to the WTKR, Chen – who is a married father of two children – was traveling on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel during blustery weather Thursday afternoon, hauling seafood to Evans Transport, which is a company based out of Washington, North Carolina.
When the truck driver passed another vehicle and re-reentered the lane, he hit a curb that caused the tractor-trailer to go airborne.
The tractor-trailer reportedly flew over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel near the mile marker 15, near the Eastern Shore side of the tunnel and landed into a body of water reaching 45.5 degrees, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data buoys.
Spokesperson Mike Maus stated that a Navy crew assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 2, based at Naval Station Norfolk was in the area during the time of the accident and responded right away.
“They were on a routine training flight and saw the wreck,” said Maus.
At that point, Chen was out of the tractor-trailer and standing on top if as it slowly submerged under water.
A passerby captured Chen standing on the tractor-trailer and at the moment, it appeared there would be a happy ending.
However, when Chen was rescued from the water and taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, he died.
The truck driver’s body was taken to a local medical examiner’s office for an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death. Although the details involving Chen’s death were not released, relatives told their local news station that Chen died from cardiac arrest.
“When I knew he had went over, I knew I wasn’t heavy enough, so I didn’t take the chance,” said Lattimore, adding that he has to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel twice a week.
“On a windy day, you can feel it, and you’ll be pushing your trailer and your tractor to the left or the right, whichever way the wind is blowing. You can actually feel it; it’s a hurting feeling and you know of course I said a prayer for him and that was before I heard that he died. I was hoping that he was going to make it.”
After the deadly bridge crash, the Virginia Trucking Association released the following statement: “We take safety very seriously. It is certainly a tragedy any time we lose someone. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family, friends, and fellow employees of the victim.”
Relatives are now mourning the truck driver’s tragic death.
“Everyone wanted to revolve themselves around him,” said Chen’s stepson, Chris Moore. “He always had a smile on his face. He could never meet a stranger.”
He went on to say that Chen loved the “open road” and added that he would often travel on the Bridge-Tunnel with his wife.
“She would ride with him all the time over that bridge,” said Moore. “If it would have been tonight, she said she probably would have been on the truck with him.”
Chen and his wife, Billie Jo Chen, were to celebrate their 10-year wedding anniversary in April.
“He was off the chain,” said the wife. “He was an awesome husband.”
A friend Chen’s, Perry, stated that “Joe’s a great guy” and “loved motorcycle riding.”
He added: “He would do bike rides for those who were sick or in need.”
Investigators say during the accident winds at the time were gusting 40 mph but claims it did not play a factor in the accident.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel police chief stated: “At this point, I don’t believe this is a wind issue” due to “evidence at the scene.”
The accident is under investigation.
[Featured Image by Wandel Guides/Shutterstock]