MELVILLE, N.Y. – A fuel truck flipped and exploded on New York's Long Island Expressway on Saturday morning, killing the driver and creating a fireball seen for miles that shut the highway for hours.
Emergency crews battled the raging blaze for three hours after the 8 a.m. accident between Melville and Plainview near the Nassau County line.
The intense heat melted the supports for a huge road sign, which collapsed across all eight lanes of the roadway. Heavy equipment was brought in to remove it, but authorities were still uncertain in late afternoon when the heavily trafficked highway might reopen.
The tanker was operated by Maine-based Kittery Transport, and the driver was from Brooklyn, authorities said. His identity was not immediately released pending notification of next of kin.
The accident happened as the tanker sought to pass a small car that apparently was having mechanical problems and slowing down, said Chief Michael Sharkey of the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department.
He said the Dodge was trying to get to the shoulder of the highway when the tanker veered around it, struck it and lost control.
The tanker overturned, igniting into flames.
"It would appear that the driver of the truck was not able to get out of the vehicle," said Sharkey. Rescuers extricated his body after the flames died down.
The woman at the wheel of the car was taken by helicopter to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where she was being treated for injuries that were not serious, Sharkey said.
Firefighters poured foam onto the smoldering truck, which they estimated still held about 1,500 gallons of gasoline. The fuel had been picked up Saturday morning in Brooklyn for delivery to Long Island.
Sharkey said he could not estimate how long it would take to remove the wreckage and clear foam off the road, but that the expressway's westbound lanes would be first to reopen. The tanker crashed on the eastbound side, also damaging the roadway.