Search Continues For Missing 22-Year-Old Dump Truck Driverby Jana Ritter - Published: 8/24/2016
On Wednesday authorities continued the search for a missing driver of a Riverside Construction Co. dump truck that plunged into the Mississippi River at the Florida Marine Transport job site. It has also been confirmed that the truck driver is 22-year-old Michael Collins of Vicksburg, FL.
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At about 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday evening, Collins' truck went into the river while he was performing the job of moving limestone from barges on the river at the Florida Marine Transport property to another location on the site. According to witnesses, Collins was still in the truck when it went down but divers sent to the site didn’t find him in the truck’s cab when they located the truck under the barges. Collins has been missing ever since.
Warren County Sheriff, Martin Pace, said he sent boats out to search the river immediately after the accident was reported and continued the search until after dark on Tuesday, then resumed early Wednesday morning. Vicksburg police and firefighters also responded to the call, and the Vicksburg Fire Department’s dive team was deployed to help with the search. “Two sheriff’s office boats were in the water only minutes behind them,” Pace said. “The Mississippi River is very deep and unforgiving. Just out from the bank, the bank drops off very steeply, very quickly into very deep water."
Vicksburg Police officer, Russell Dorsey, said the accident occurred as the truck was waiting on an incline to get a load of limestone and the driver was unable to stop the truck as it began rolling into the river. Riverside vice president, Don Miller is Collins' employer and was brought to tears as he described Collins to local media "as a fine young man and a hard worker." Miller also said that he wished he could trade places the young man.
“He’s probably unloaded tens of thousands of tons of rock and hauled safely, and usually, that’s no problem,” Miller said. “He was going down hill and lost control of that truck, and nobody knows how, or why, but that’s what happened. This young man was skilled and trained to drive it, and he was 22 years old, but he had been with us for a couple of years and been driving a long time and was very competent on it.”
Miller also explained that commercial divers were already on another job near the site when they were called to assist with locating the truck. “When you work in the river, you use very highly certified divers.” The divers reported that current was very rapid and murky and in those conditions they have to feel their way around. “This isn’t new to us unfortunately, but there’re so many variables,” said John Elfer of the Warren County EMA. “Changing water levels. The surface of the water. Obviously, the unknowns that are in the bottom of the river. Those can be challenges, and it’s extremely dangerous to work,” Elfer added.