Trucker’s Widow Files $6 MILLION Lawsuit After Husband Dies in Chesapeake Bay
Norfolk, VA – The widow of a North Carolina trucker who perished in 2017 when his big rig was blown off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT) has filed a $6 million lawsuit alleging negligence.
Billie Jo Chen recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Northampton County Circuit Court against the CBBT.
The complaint argues the bridge-tunnel’s own wind and gauge policy should have prohibited her husband, Joseph Chen, from crossing the bridge during a period of high winds.
The accident occurred on February 9, 2017, at approximately 12:21 p.m. as Chen, an experienced trucker for North Carolina-based Evans Transport, was operating a tractor-trailer only loaded with empty pallets across the CBBT.
CBBT policy prohibited empty trailers like Chen was hauling from crossing if gusts higher than 46 mph are being detected by gauges stationed along the 17.6-mile span.
According to the complaint, readouts of a WeatherHawk gauge at the CBBT’s Island 4 — the nearest one to where Chen went over the side — clocked gusts up to 50 mph while he attempted to cross.
Chen’s big rig was blown over the guardrail and plunged into the 45-degree water below.
He was able to escape the cab and climb on top of the rig as it began to sink.
Onlookers captured video of Chen’s desperate attempts to survive while others frantically called 9-1-1.
CBBT says conditions prevented a response by boat, so a U.S. Navy helicopter was called to assist.
By the time rescuers in the Navy helicopter reached him at 12:58 p.m., he was floating in the water and was quickly pronounced dead from hypothermia.
An investigation into the accident by CBBT police concluded Chen was at fault.
Several witnesses indicated Chen was going too fast for conditions and lost control when he tried to pass another semi, CBBT Police Chief Edward Spencer said.
Further, according to multiple local news reports, Chief Spencer indicated “there were 80 to 86 trucks out there on the facility at the time of the incident, and they all made it across except him.”
However, CBBT is claiming sovereign immunity, which typically protects governmental entities from negligence lawsuits.
The lawsuit is expected to go to trial in July.
Photo courtesy of Billie Jo Chen