CAPE CHARLES, Va. — Family and friends are grieving the loss of 47-year-old Erik Mezick from Fruitland, Maryland.
On Tuesday, the box truck Mezick was driving went overboard on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
“It’s just gut-wrenching, you know,” explained Mack Malone.
Malone is a family friend of the Mezicks. He said he’s known Erik since he was about five years old.
“He’s been a stand-up guy from the time I’ve met him even as a child," Malone recalled. "He’s always been a 100% genuine person and a solid man.”
Mezick’s wife of 20 years, Megan, said she and her family are heartbroken. She has two children with Mezick: 18-year-old Dylan, and Hannah, who is 15.
“It’s a tough loss, across the board. When you’re an asset to your family and your community it’s going to be a heavy loss on our community for sure, and their family,” Malone said.
His brother, Kevin Mezick, said he traveled over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel weekly, driving for Cloverland Greenspring Dairy.
“They shared a photo of him coming through the toll,” Mezick said. “You can see him whistling while he was driving. We don’t know what happened. If it was mechanical, wind, we don’t know what happened.”
He said Erik was a strong swimmer.
“He swam every day, 100 laps a day,” Mezick said.
Struggling with the unmeasurable loss, his family wanted the community to know who the man behind the wheel was.
“Just a good guy,” Mezick said. “He would do anything for anybody.”
He said Erik had the gift of gab.
“You better prepare for 30 minutes to an hour,” Mezick said. “He’s telling you his life story, telling you about God.”
It’s what made his job with Cloverland so enjoyable. Mezick said he started delivering for them less than a year ago, after retiring as a correctional officer.
He and his older brother were thick as thieves, only 11 months apart. He hopes to find Erik soon.
“We have a lot of crazy stories, stuff I will cherish for the rest of my life,” Mezick said.
Mezick said family and friends are planning to boat back to the area this weekend to keep looking.
When the accident happened, officials with the Coast Guard and other government agencies used several resources to search for Mezick.
Captain of the Port Sector Commander for Sector Virginia Samson Stevens said, “We ended up laying down about 130 miles of search area across 11 different searches and over 16 hours of searches yesterday until sunset.”
On Wednesday, it turned into a recovery mission. The Coast Guard asked the Port of Virginia’s Maritime Incident Response Team to coordinate Sonar Operations.
“Virginia Beach Police, Fire, Virginia Beach EMS and Chesapeake Police helped us with that operation,” explained Port of Virginia Maritime Incident Response Team Director, Bill Burket.
After more than seven hours on Wednesday, officials suspended the search. Unfortunately, they did not find Mezick.
Crews also pulled the wrecked truck out of the water with a large crane. Officials continue investigating how this accident happened.