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Body found inside truck that went off Va. bridge; 2nd person may have died

By JONATHAN EDWARDS | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: July 28, 2018

VIRGINIA BEACH (Tribune News Service) — A body has been found inside the semi truck that went off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and officials believe a second person might have died as a result of the crash.

Divers found the body Saturday morning, said Ronald Hodges a Coast Guard petty officer. Witnesses said they saw two people inside the tractor-trailer before it drove off the bridge-tunnel and plunged into the water, so a second body could be inside.

Officials think they have identified the driver based on E-ZPass records and witness statements, said Tom Anderson, deputy director of finance and operation for the bridge-tunnel.

Search teams found the semi's cab Saturday morning and plan to recover it around midday when the tide recedes, Anderson said. The cab is about 20- to 25-feet under water.

On Saturday morning, two dump trucks were blocking the west edge of the bridge-tunnel near the 12-mile marker where the semi destroyed a section of guardrail before plunging into the water.

Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused the accident by gathering cell phone data and, eventually, the black box from the semi, but won't know for at least a few days, Anderson said.

The semi was in a two-vehicle crash that happened around 6:30 Friday evening at the 12-mile marker of the bridge-tunnel's southbound lanes, Anderson said. Four people were in the van. None were seriously hurt.

An hour before the crash, bridge-tunnel officials reduced speed limits for all vehicles to 35 mph, down from 55, Anderson said, as storms were expected.

The crash is not the first in recent memory involving a truck on the bridge-tunnel.

In February 2017, 47-year-old Joseph Chen died after his truck went over the side and plunged into the water. A Navy helicopter plucked Chen from his truck in the water but he died on the way to the hospital.

The Pilot took an in-depth look at the bridge's safety after Chen's death and found that 11 of the 14 over-the-side accidents it could obtain information on involved a tractor-trailer.

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