VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Officials say driver error caused a tractor-trailer to go over the side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Thursday afternoon.
According to police, 47-year-old Joseph Chen had just passed another tractor-trailer and as he re-entered the lane, he drove over a curb and went airborne.
Authorities are still hoping to get more information from the truck’s black box, if it can be found and recovered.
The tractor-trailer went into the water on the southbound side of the CBBT around 12:30 p.m. Navy spokesman Cmdr. Dave Hecht said a crew with HSC 2 out of Norfolk was in the area training when police called for help. That crew responded in an MH-60 Sierra and pulled the driver out of the water. Chen was reportedly standing on top of the truck before he was lifted into the helicopter.
Chen died on the way to the hospital.
Chen was hauling seafood for Evans Transport, a company based out of Washington, North Carolina.
“He was the type of guy that anyone he met liked him from the get go,” said President of Evans Transport Armistead Perry. “When I had a driver I needed to train, I would always put him with Joe, because he was such an easy person to get along with and just a good all around guy.”
Friends say Joe was also the president of a motorcycle club in Greenville, North Carolina, where he often raised money for people in need.
Road crews are working to repair the guard rail and concrete, which could take up to a week.
The Coast Guard says a commercial vessel spotted the trailer Friday. The trailer separated from the cab and was last seen floating near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. A Coast Guard helicopter responded and found it 22 nautical miles southeast of Virginia Beach. The helicopter crew dropped a satellite-controlled beacon and attached it to the floating trailer, which enables the trailer to be tracked.
Coast Guard officials say it appears the tractor trailer is going out to sea and will likely pose no risk. There’s been no final decision on the salvage of the trailer; that decision will likely be up to the trucking company.
Divers went into the water near the bridge-tunnel Friday to look for the cab. It was located sometime Friday afternoon. Officials are now working on a plan to retrieve it. It’s likely that won’t happen until next week.
Stay with WAVY.com for updates to this developing story.