Sonar technology used in Virginia Beach box truck driver's search and recovery effort

Sonar used in search and
Posted at 9:26 PM, Dec 30, 2020

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Sonar technology was strategically deployed across the vast waterways of Hampton Roads Wednesday.

The operation was carried out by the Port of Virginia’s Maritime Incident Response Team to try and locate Erik Mezick’s body after the box truck he was driving veered off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Tuesday and plunged into the water.

Bill Burket is the director of the maritime response team for the Port of Virginia. He coordinated the multi-agency response effortwith the Virginia Beach Police, Virginia Beach Fire Department, Virginia Beach EMS and Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Police.

“We were able to determine none of the targets were the victim,” Burket said.

The crews used sonar, a device that quickly scans shapes underwater that might be a body.

“They project sound waves that echo back to be able to give a picture of what’s on the bottom,” Burket said. “It’s all sound waves, so you can have zero visibility and still be able to capture what’s on the bottom.”

Burket said using sonar effectively really depends on the weather. Calm waters and light winds are ideal when using the device.

“Having worked many of these scenarios out there in that portion of the bay, it certainly is a challenge trying to figure out where things are moving,” he said. “Out at that portion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the Chesapeake Bay, the currents are treacherous out there.”

The sonar technology is used often not only for search and recovery efforts.

“It’s been very useful for us, not only in search and recovery but when we have severe weather when the port has to close, in order for us to reopen it we have to do a port survey or assessment of all of our channels,” Burket said.

The search for Mezick, 47, was suspended on Wednesday.