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Family identifies truck driver who went missing in Neuse River

Richard White (Photo submitted by Tonya White)

More than a month later and a family is finally getting closure after a tractor-trailer driver crashed through a bridge barrier and disappeared into the Neuse River.

Tonya White confirmed to NewsChannel 12 that it was her brother, Richard White, who went through the bridge barrier in Kinston on Dec. 9, 2018.

"My brother was a kind, humble and loving person. We are so glad that he has been found and now our family has closure," White said.

Richard White smashed through a concrete guardrail in the left lane of U.S. 70/258 that cold December morning, his truck falling between the two bridges that carry traffic over the river.

Deputies found the tractor-tailor in the river with only about 20 feet of it sticking out of the water.

Five members of a dive team searched the Neuse River in Kinston that day. The dive team was able to locate the cab of the truck, but they did not see Richard inside.

It was an agonizing search slowed down by harsh weather conditions. With no success, crews scaled back their search efforts from every day to every other day.

N.C. Highway Patrol First Sgt. Michael Baker said the river’s swift current made it hard to determine where Richard could be.

Volunteer firefighters used radar, drones and poles to remove debris but divers still came up empty handed until Jan. 19.

ABC affiliate WTVD reports Jerri King, interim director of Lenoir County Emergency Services, said a body was found near the King Street boat landing. The body has been sent to the medical examiner’s office for official identification, King said.

Robert "Pinky" Floyd worked with Richard for three years. Floyd said he was shocked to learn about the crash, thinking "no, not Richard. Richard would never crash." Floyd and White shared a cab and clocked hundreds of thousands of miles together on the road.

Floyd recalled the memories made in those miles, retelling stories of times when he didn't think they'd make it out alive. But with Richard driving, he said they always did.

"Richard was a very good, safe driver. He was confident in his moves," Floyd said. Floyd said White leaves behind a fiancée and four kids.

"He was a super dad. He always talked about his kids. He was a better dad than a driver. He was the best driver I ever drove with."

Richard went on to work with Kack Enterprise LLC, a trucking company based out of Fayetteville and a move Floyd said Richard made for his family.

Senior Vice President Keith Rhodia said he handpicked Richard to work for his company. He described him as a person with "an infectious personality." Rhodia said Richard as a family man who always showed up early.

The veteran-owned company was established in 2006 and operates with a little over 100 trucks and 100 drivers. Rhodia said the news of Richard's accident rocked them.

"I don't have any enemies but if I did, I wouldn't wish this on them," Rhodia said. "We still have not got over it. He was a great person. An excellent driver. No one would have anything negative to say about him."

The cause of the crash is unknown at this time.

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