VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A box truck went off the side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and into the water below on Tuesday morning.
Bridge-tunnel officials say it happened around 8:20 a.m. near the 14-mile marker on the northbound side, between the North Channel Bridge and the northernmost island. Witnesses reported seeing him exit the truck and drift west after the truck went off the bridge.
Virginia Beach Fire & Rescue, the U.S. Coast Guard and Virginia Marine Resource Commission were all searching Tuesday, with an MH-60 helicopter overhead.
The search was called off by the Coast Guard Tuesday night after darkness fell. Crews searched 178 square miles with multiple crews.
A distribution manager at Cloverland Green Spring Dairy, based in Baltimore, confirmed it was one of their dairy trucks involved in this accident. The company had no additional comments at that time.
CBBT officials identified the driver of the truck as Erik Mezick, 47, of Fruitland, Maryland.
“The thoughts and prayers of everyone at the CBBT are with the family and loved ones of Mr. Mezick during this difficult time,” said Jeff Holland, executive director of the CBBT.
“We would like to extend our condolences to the family and friends of this individual during this time of tragedy,” said Capt. Samson Stevens, commander of Coast Guard Sector Virginia. “We would like to thank the local first responder agencies for their partnership and dedication in coordinating efforts and searching throughout the day with our crews.”
A single lane of traffic was open on the northbound span as of 9:30 a.m. and crews were making emergency repairs to the guardrail. The Coast Guard says there were no current impacts to waterways or pollution due to the crash.
The truck was eventually recovered on Wednesday around noon, CBBT officials said, and the investigation into the crash was ongoing.
The bridge-tunnel runs 17.6 miles from Virginia Beach to the Eastern Shore and features two tunnels that run under the surface of the Chesapeake Bay.
Crashes over the side of the bridge are not that uncommon. A tractor-trailer driver died of hypothermia in January 2019 after his truck went off the bridge. His family has filed a $6 million lawsuit against the bridge operator, saying it was negligent when it allowed Joseph Chen to drive across the bridge-tunnel during high winds.
Wind speeds on Tuesday were in the low teens in mph. Restrictions on the bridge start at wind speeds of 40 mph.