Pictures from Chopper 11 HD showed where the logging truck veered off U.S. 1 and slid down an embankment beside the bridge over the river.
The accident happened around 11 a.m. on northbound U.S. 1 near Moncure, just west of the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant.
The body of the driver, 49-year-old Ronald Mack Brown, of Sanford, was recovered by emergency workers just after 3 p.m.
Brown was delivering a load of lumber to a paper mill at the time of the crash. The truck's engine then caught fire as the rig was straddling the riverbank. Eventually the entire rig fell into the water and Brown was submerged in the cab.
At home, Brown's loved ones remembered the man they lost. They said he was cheerful, lively, and always helpful.
"He was a very good-hearted person," said Donnie Brown, the victim's brother. "He'd give you the shirt off his back if you needed. If you needed money, he'd give it to you."
Brown left behind a girlfriend, and many family members and friends who are now looking for answers.
Brown's body is now at the medical examiners office at UNC where an autopsy is expected to determine if a medical condition may have played a role in the crash.
There is no sign that Brown attempted to brake or to get the vehicle back on road.
The North Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating.