A tractor-trailer still smolders hours after a chain-reaction crash on the Long Island Expressway on Wednesday.(Photo: Frank Eltman, AP)
SHIRLEY, N.Y. -- A tractor-trailer smashed into several vehicles
on a major highway on Wednesday afternoon, setting off a chain reaction
of fiery crashes, killing one person and injuring 33 others, police
The accident on the Long Island Expressway, about 70 miles
east of New York City, left at least two dozen vehicles strewn across
several hundred yards of the eastbound lanes. At least three vehicles,
including the tractor-trailer, which was carrying storm debris, caught
fire and were still smoldering into the early evening, a fire official
A 68-year-old Blue Point woman, who was driving a Toyota
Camry eastbound on the expressway, died at the scene, police said. The
injured were taken to three area hospitals.
driver, 42-year-old Raymond Simoneau, of Rockingham, Vt., was heading
eastbound when the truck struck a number of cars, triggering a pileup
involving 35 vehicles, Suffolk County police said. It was unclear if
Simoneau was one of the injured.
A car involved in the initial
collision with the tractor-trailer was incinerated beyond recognition,
with its tires punctured and paint burned off its body. Some SUVs and
cars suffered extensive damage while others appeared to have barely a
scratch; all were haphazardly stopped across the highway.
Deputy Inspector Kevin Fallon said the accident occurred at about 2:40
p.m. on a bright, sunny day. He said the eastbound lanes of the roadway,
which connects suburban Long Island neighborhoods with New York City,
were expected to remain closed until Thursday morning.
The westbound lanes were expected to reopen before the Thursday morning rush hour.
Five fire departments responded to the scene as well as 19 Emergency Medical Services agencies, police said.
were working to sort out the sequence of events that led to the
accident that caused the chaos on the isolated stretch of road on the
rural part of eastern Long Island, Fallon said.
up on this scene you would think there would be definitely more than
just one fatality," said John Mirando, chief of the Ridge Fire
Department. "It's just lucky that it's only one, but it could have been a
Driver Danny Gershonowitz told Newsday that he was ahead of the accident when he saw two cars stop on the road shoulder.
gentleman to the right of me went down to the ground and was praying.
When I looked in my rear view mirror, there was smoke and flames coming
out," he said.
He said he and others got the attention of the truck driver, and helped him as he climbed out of his smoking vehicle.
soon, the whole front of the truck was engulfed in fire, and that's
when people started backing away," he said. "The police came and asked
everybody to run and get out of the way, because I guess they thought it