Man pulled from sunken truck remembered as selfless 'Couldn't ask for a better neighbor'

Authorities say 56-year-old Bobby Benefield's body was discovered inside the truck which plunged off the Meighan Bridge on Sunday. (Stephen Quinn |

Rita Cofield said she knew Bobby Benefield better than most. "You couldn't ask for a better neighbor. If you needed anything he would say, 'Just call.' That's all you had to (do) was just call."

Cofield became concerned Sunday evening when Benefield didn't answer his phone. Her concerns were planted in part by those Benefield had gotten two months earlier.

"He had just found he was diabetic about less than two months ago. They couldn't get it (sugar levels) adjusted. Get it stabilized. I fixed his syringes for him."

The Gadsden Police Department is working to find out whether the truck crash was caused by a medical incident. Police and eyewitnesses tell ABC 33/40 News the truck swerved across the bridge before plunged off the edge.

Benefield lived alone in his house in the Ford Valley area of Etowah County according to authorities. His closest family is located in Illinois. They were notified of the 56-year-old's death on Monday night.

"It's difficult to bring loved-one's bad news or the worst news that you could bring to a family," said Gadsden Police Department's Sgt. John Hallman.

Cofield said she is almost certain Benefield was alone in his truck. Authorities are not. Gadsden Fire Department and a smaller team of rescue departments will continue to search the Coosa River in case another body was inside the truck.

Accident investigators are asking for the public’s assistance. If anyone saw Mr. Benefield prior to the incident, they are urged to contact Gadsden Police Department Traffic Investigator, Sam Lowe, at 256-549-4631.

The recovery effort drew considerable attention on social media from Gadsden residents. Police had to clear cars belonging to spectators parked along Albert Rains Boulevard. Many huddled under the Meighan Bridge throughout the afternoon to watch the divers. Dozens more showed up to watch the truck be towed from the water.

The fire department told ABC 33/40 News the truck was found on the Coosa River bed, 22 feet below the surface. Strong currents and near zero visibility proved a challenge for divers called in from across east Alabama. A team from Daphne, Alabama was also brought in to use sonar technology to map the river bed.

Air bags were used to float the truck off of the river bottom onto a nearby bank, where a tow truck pulled it out of the water. The mangled truck was towed from the scene after the body was removed.

Tony Ramsey can still remember the sound he heard when driving over the Meighan Bridge on Sunday, "It's nerve-wracking. My nerves was tore up all day. It's something you don't want to see. You know? It's bad."

Ramsey was driving home from a day of fishing when he said he looked out his rear window to see the truck plunge from the bridge. He immediately rushed his boat to Coosa Landing to see if he could help. The truck sank as he pulled up in his boat he said.

"People was telling me to jump in but I didn't jump in because the current was so strong. They'd be getting me out of the bottom too."

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