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Firefighter rescues driver trapped in semi dangling off bridge, high above river

Firefighter rescues driver trapped in semi dangling off bridge, high above river
Posted at 9:01 AM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 11:03:56-04

CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- A firefighter made an incredible rescue when a driver became trapped in a semi dangling over a bridge, high above a Virginia river.

Chesapeake firefighters were dispatched to the I-64 High Rise Bridge at 8:42 a.m. Monday morning after officials say the tractor trailer jackknifed in the westbound lanes.

"We call these types of calls 'low frequency, high-risk' calls," said Chesapeake Fire Battalion Chief Shean Emmons.

Firefighters with the Chesapeake Fire Department -- just an hour into their shift -- were first on the scene and reported the tractor trailer hanging off the side of the bridge with the driver still inside.

Firefighter Justin Beazley, just 25 years old, was en route.

"It all happened so quick. You train for this, but you just never expect it," said Beazley.

A Regional Technical Rescue Response was requested, which brought in additional specialty resources from Norfolk Fire-Rescue and the Virginia Beach Fire Department.

Officials say the 2007 Freight-liner tractor trailer was traveling in the left lane on I-64 westbound when a large gust of wind pushed the trailer into the other lane, causing the driver to lose control and strike the side of the bridge.

The driver, Wayne B. Boone, was trapped in the cab of the truck, dangling over the Elizabeth River.

"One of the challenges was weather. We had storms blow through, high winds and even hail on us," said Emmons.

The tractor-trailer was stabilized with the assistance of heavy equipment from Hudson’s Servicenter and Fink’s Wrecker Service to prevent additional movement. Then, fire officials say a series of complex and advanced rope maneuvers were used to bring Beazley down about 10 feet off the bridge, about 70 feet above the Elizabeth River.

"It was nerve-racking because the tractor trailer was hovering above me and that wind was moving," said Beazley. "When I got to the driver, he didn't say much; we exchanged names, [and] I said, 'You ready to get out of here?' Then he put the harness on and climbed out."

At 9:47 a.m., Boone was transferred to a Chesapeake medic unit and was taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Beazley said a year's worth of training and the help of multiple crews helped him execute this unprecedented rescue.

"We all signed up for it. Anyone in my position would do the exact same thing," said Beazley. "This one call of a lifetime just happened to be me this morning. "

The Virginia Department of Transportation will provide updates on the amount of damage done to bridge.

Police say alcohol was not a contributing factor and that Boone was wearing his seat belt at time of the accident.

Virginia State Police are investigating the cause of the accident.

This story was originally published by Chelsea Donovan at WKTR.