LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — The National Transportation Safety Board has released its initial report on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge accident that sent a car careening over the side of the structure and into the water below on July 19.
The 24-year-old woman who was operating the vehicle, a Chrysler Sebring, sustained only minor injuries.
The NTSB report says a tractor trailer struck the Chrysler from behind at around 8:30 p.m. The collision occurred less than a mile past the toll plaza, after traffic had merged from eleven toll lanes into two travel lanes. When the Chrysler was hit, it was pushed up onto the barrier wall before falling approximately 27 feet into the bay.
The company operating tractor trailer, which was driven that day by a 29-year-old employee, is based in Prince Edward Island, Canada. The driver emigrated from Hungary to Canada as part of the Temporary Foreign Worker pilot project and had only been with the company since April. The trip that involved the accident was his first time driving in the United States without being paired with a more experienced driver. He had made a delivery in Orange, Va., and at the was en route to pick up his next load in Maryland.
During the accident, a 2014 Mazda CX-5 occupied by a 65-year-old male driver and his wife was also struck by the tractor trailer, but it did not leave the surface of the bridge.
The truck driver told the NTSB that he had been traveling in the right-hand lane. Just prior to the accident, he turned his attention to the driver-side mirror due to lights and sounds behind him. When he looked forward again, he saw that traffic was stopped. He attempted to avoid colliding with the Chrysler by moving to the left but could not.
The report says the only other known instance of a vehicle falling from the bridge into the water occurred in August 2008.
In that case, a tractor-trailer struck and dislodged a concrete barrier on the eastbound span. Both the truck and a 12-foot section of the barrier fell into the bay, and the truck driver was killed.
After that accident, the concrete barriers in the beam span portions of the eastbound span were upgraded.
The more recent accident also occurred on a beam span portion of the eastbound span. The report says the barrier walls in that area were 34 inches high and met all standards. After the accident, the barrier remained intact and in place on the bridge deck.
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