SUFFOLK- The driver of a truck that nearly went off the side of a bridge at the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel was resting at home Monday night.
"I lost control of the chassis" Almira Ribic said, "and the brakes fell down. The last thing I see my brake was rolled up top. I dont know what happened."
She prayed just before her truck came to a stop, the cab dangling just above the James River.
"I prayed," she said, 'Please God, please take my kids and my husband. Keep them alive, make them be happy... happy and good. Whatever happens to me, that will be fine, but please take care of my family' and when I thought that way, my truck had stopped and when I saw the truck stopped, I said this is my way out."
She thought about jumping into the water, but she didn't know if her body weight kept the balance of the truck steady. The 43-year old truck driver said she told herself to keep calm.
As for her rescuers, she takes none of them for granted.
"Thanks to everybody who was helping me today," she said. "Thanks to all the rescue people, fire department the police officer, everybody. I dont know how many people were involved over there. Thanks to everybody who saved my life."
Crews rescued Ribic from the tractor-trailer that was hanging off the I-664 bridge leading up to the tunnel.
Va. State Police say the rig lost control, hit the side of the bridge and caught fire.
All lanes on I-664 in both directions were closed around 8:30 a.m. as crews worked to rescue the driver and clear the accident. All lanes reopened by 3:30 p.m. after the Va. Dept. of Transportation inspectors determined there was no damage to the bridge or sign structure that would be a safety concern.
Photos from Va. State Police showed Ribic in the cab and a crane from Kings Fork Rescue in Suffolk moving into position to get her. The rescuer was wearing a Newport News Fire-EMS shirt.
The USCGC Shearwater, an 87-foot patrol boat homeported in Portsmouth, along with a 25-foot Response Boat-Small from Coast Guard Station Portsmouth and an incident management crew from Sector Hampton Roads responded. They established a safety zone and would have gone into action had the driver fallen into the water, LTJG David Bourbeau with USCG Sector Hampton Roads told WVEC.com.
Sgt. Michelle Anaya with Va. State Police said Ribic, who was wearing a seatbelt, was "very happy" to be rescued. She was taken to Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News for treatment of minor injuries and released.
Ribic's family says she has been driving a tractor-trailer for six years. She is from Bosnia and has been in the United States for 13 years. Her neighbor says it was her dream to come to America after living through the war.
Ribic has been charged with reckless driving.
Crews had to clean about 150 gallons of diesel fuel that spilled on the road and water and clear pieces of the rig scattered around.
Responding agencies were the Newport News Fire Department, the Virginia Marine Police, Virginia State Police, Portsmouth Police Department, Suffolk Police and Fire Departments and US Coast Guard.
"This incident highlights the excellent and immediate response by multiple agencies," said Capt. John Little, the commander of Sector Hampton Roads. "It is the result of partnerships and joint training conducted within the Hampton Roads emergency response community."