9:30 p.m. UPDATE: The recovery effort for the truck driver who plunged to his death over a guardrail at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel was called off Thursday night.
The mission was suspended due to rough waters and poor visibility, CBBT Deputy Director Tom Anderson said.
No word yet on when recovery efforts will resume.
7 p.m. UPDATE: A dive team is in the process of extricating the driver's body from the submerged vehicle, CBBT officials said.
Due to inclement weather, crews will have to wait until Saturday to recover the truck.
VIRGINIA BEACH -- A tractor-trailer went off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the rescue effort turned into a recovery effort, Virginia Beach Fire officials say.
The accident happened around 10 a.m. at Milepost 15 of Route 13. The rig hit a light pole and went off the bridge, said Va. Beach Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Amy Valdez.
Tom Anderson, spokesman for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel says the driver didn't see a maintenance crew working and swerved to miss them. That sent the rig through the guard rail and into the water.
"Unfortunately, the driver of the tractor-trailer must not have seen the signage and the advisory," Anderson said. "He saw it at the last second it appeared and swerved to try to miss it."
The area where the truck went into the water is about 26 feet, Vadez said.
Rhonda Acosta told 13News Now, "We were fishing and heard a loud noise, turned to look and saw a big splash. Reeled up our rods and drove to the scene hoping the driver got out. But we never seen him."
Radio traffic from the rescue said, "Be advised, I'm passed this second island on the tunnel. Tractor-trailer has gone through the railing, is under the water. He is still in the cab under the water."
The accident closed all northbound lanes of the span.
Valdez says four divers from Navy Special Warfare were the only responders who actually made contact with truck and trailer. She said the wreckage made it impossible for them to reach the driver.
“We’ve tethered both the tractor and the trailer to the Navy vessels and they’re making sure they’re controlling the drift as we move through the recovery of not only the occupant but also the wreckage,” she explained.
Authorities told WVEC.com EMS Marine Rescue boats and divers were first on the scene. A tunnel authority boat, the Navy and assets from Coast Guard Station Little Creek, Station Cape Charles and Cutter Beluga were also involved in the effort. A helicopter from Coast Guard Station Elizabeth City was being sent.
High-rolling seas and wind gusts of up to 20 mph made the recovery effort difficult.
I saw divers in a small boat go off the Coast Cutter," Capt. Pat Foster told 13News Now. "They are having a tough time working the site where the submerged truck is moving in the current."
The rescue situation could be seen from people in the Chick's Beach area. Jenny Rouze posted on the WVEC13 Facebook page said, "LOTS OF sirens and police/rescue going on right now."
Anderson says a guardrail, concrete light pole and a section of the concrete curb were destroyed.
"It'll take at least a day for that concrete to cure and for that to be safe for travelers to drive next to," Anderson said.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel connects the Eastern Shore with Virginia Beach and spans more than 17 miles of water. More than 116 million commercial and passenger vehicles have crossed the bridge-tunnel since it opened in 1964.
Anderson said it is rare for a vehicle to crash into the water, with only about a dozen in the bridge-tunnel's 50-year history.