NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Firefighters plucked a truck driver from the wreckage of her tractor-trailer’s cab Monday while it dangled from the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel, hovering over the mouth of the frigid James River.
The 2005 Freight Liner driven by Newport News resident Almira Ribic, 43, was traveling southbound on Interstate 664 just before 9 a.m. Ribic lost control and ran off the road, striking the bridge’s concrete guard rail and placing the entire cab of the truck over water between the northbound and southbound bridges. More than 150 gallons of diesel fuel spilled during the crash, and the truck was briefly on fire.
“She was scared. She wanted to get out,” said Newport News Master Firefighter Scott Dye, who rescued Ribic. “I’m sure she was fearful that the truck was going to fall off the bridge.”
Dye reached Ribic as he was suspended from a Suffolk fire truck’s rescue bucket with a rope and harness. Ribic was then placed into a harness and a life preserver in the cab of her truck, which Dye said was moving around a bit even after rescue crews had worked to stabilize the truck. Dye said Ribic was about 15 to 20 feet above the water when he reached her and that rescue boats were nearby in the water in case the truck fell.
With Dye’s arms and legs wrapped around Ribic, the pair were safely hoisted back onto the bridge.
“Once we got back to the bridge, it was a big sigh of relief for her. She didn’t say a whole lot. She just wanted to get out of the truck,” Dye said.
State police charged Ribic with reckless driving after she was rescued by firefighters. Ribic suffered minor injuries.
State police said the investigation into the crash is ongoing. Interstate 664 and parts of the James River near the bridge were shut down for several hours as hazmat crews cleaned up the scene.
Authorities were able to get the truck cab back onto the bridge.
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